Russian email scam targets our businesses

INTERNET VICTIM: Claude Chase, whose computer files were encrypted after he opened a fake email.
INTERNET VICTIM: Claude Chase, whose computer files were encrypted after he opened a fake email. David Nielsen

CLAUDE Chase isn't the type to give up but he's close to the end of his tether after being stung by a Russian email scam.

Mr Chase, the owner of Ipswich business XLNT Chauffeurs, is trying to extricate himself from the fiendish internet con.

He isn't alone. Across Australia, cyber criminals monitor companies' email networks, obtaining corporate communication and intercept documents and valuable intellectual property.

Police say thousands of Australians have been held to ransom by hackers who lock up computers by encrypting data then demand a fee to decrypt it.

"We've been in business for five years," Mr Chase said.

"Our business if chauffeurs and limousines. We also do patient transport services.

"We got an email on November 28 at 5am. It said we had an outstanding traffic ticket in New South Wales from the Department of Transport.

"I thought: We haven't been down there but maybe one of the cars going to the Gold Coast slipped over the border. It looked authentic.

"There's a little box on the screen that says, 'View image here', and when you click on that, that's the trigger and in it floods.

An encryption virus entered his system and locked every file.

"Then you get a warning screen that pops up and says, 'We have just encrypted all your files. If you want them back, you'll have to pay the ransom fee'," Mr Chase said.

"That was initially $599 and if we hadn't paid that by the 28th, it was $1199 and it continued to rise.

"It got up to $2000 but it's gone down because they've got a help desk and I got a bit nasty with them. I told them that I'm going to spend the rest of my life hunting them down.

"One of the Federal policeman told me in cases where people have paid the ransom money, their card information was copied and the bank account was cleaned out."

Google and Microsoft told him to remove the computer's hard-drive and start again.

"We've got to pay to put a server in to stop everything there and then back up everything on our laptops. We lost five years of correspondence, pictures, emails; the computer place is trying to save them," he said.

"The other thing is they copy your email address so they send it out to all the people in your address book as well.

"We've got state of the art virus detection security here but it wasn't enough to stop it. It's just so frustrating. It's hard enough to do business as it is."

Police are warning business people to be on alert when receiving emails, saying that any time a business receives an email, it is vital they seek verification before proceeding.

Topics:  email scam scams

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