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Had a call from ‘Microsoft’ after the ransomware attack?

By Tim Mitchell on 15 May, 2017

We’re receiving reports of people receiving phone calls claiming to be from Microsoft and saying they can help protect computers from ransomware. This is in the wake of the ransomware attack which has, over the last few days, affected hundreds of thousands of users in 150 countries.

FACT: if you receive a call like this, it will be a fraudster exploiting the situation by panicking you into allowing them remote access to your computer in order to scan it for viruses and maybe load some security software. Yes, they will load something on to it, but it will be malware – most likely spyware – which will then be used to monitor and hijack your computer, and everything you do on it. Or, the scammer may have done nothing, but will charge you for doing nothing.

Microsoft or any other support provider would NOT call you to tell you that you have – or may have – a ransomware infection. How would they know? If you have a contract with a specific support provider, that’s a different matter. Even if that happens and you have doubts, you can always call them back on what you know to be their correct number.

After cyberattacks of this kind and also following large company data breaches, of which we have witnessed quite a number in the last couple of years, it is typical for criminals to exploit the situation in this way by scamming unsuspecting people.

email scams

Also, or alternatively, you may receive phishing emails claiming to be from Microsoft saying they can scan or patch your computer. Again – these are almost certainly fakes, designed to defraud you or commit identity theft.

The attack infects computers using the WannaCry strain of ransomware which has affected computers running some older versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system, most specifically Windows XP, for which the real Microsoft withdrew support (including security upgrades) over three years ago. Ransomware is a form of malware which encrypts your computer files and issues you with an on-screen ransom demand, which promises to unlock your files on payment. More often than not, the criminals do not honour this, so you pay the ransom and still have an unusable computer. Advice on what to do here.