Warning issued about computer virus

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is warning computer users to take precautions against a computer virus that has already cost one Washington County resident hundreds of dollars.

The virus, a form of ransomware, infects a computer and leads the user to believe the National Security Agency (NSA) has taken control of the computer for security purposes. The virus then demands that the computer user make a payment to the NSA in order to regain control of their computer, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

“Our computer forensics expert examined the infected computer…It’s pretty sophisticated,” Mincks said of the virus.

The virus is similar to a previous version of the virus, which afflicted multiple Washington County computers by claiming the Federal Bureau of Investigation had taken control of them, said Mincks.

Infected computer users will likely lose all of their data, he said.

So far one Washington County resident has reported the NSA version of the virus. That individual was scammed out of nearly $300, said Mincks.

There will likely be additional costs associated with having the computer repaired, he added.

Mincks recommended installing standard antivirus software on a computer for protection. Antivirus programs such as Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky, will likely catch and quarantine the problem, he said.

Similarly, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office believes that the firewalls used by many businesses and government agencies will protect against the virus.

Users who believe their computer has been infected should immediately power down their computer and take it to a computer specialist, said Mincks.