A Fylde coast accountancy firm has today warned companies across the region about a new email scam which can cripple IT systems and cause major disruption.
Ransomware is the name given to a new email virus which has been doing the rounds and can destroy computer files if opened.
Jones Harris Chartered Accountants, based in St Peter’s Place, Fleetwood, has issued the warning amid growing numbers of companies falling victim to the scam.
A spokesman for the firm said: “This nasty software goes by a number of names – call it cryptolocker, ransomware or whatever you will – its intention is the same, to ruin your computer files and get money out of you.
“There is so much of it about at the moment it even made the national press at the weekend.
“Basically, you receive an attachment by email and if you click on it and open the file the software it contains enters your computer.
“Although malicious software can do anything once it’s loaded, this current one is locking all your files down and then asking you for money to decrypt them – basically holding your computer to ransom.
“It can also affect not just one computer but the whole of your network and the computers connected to it. If the programme is installed there is no way to recover the encrypted files.”
The firm says some of the emails are easy to spot as spam but they are becoming more sophisticated, with some dressed up to look like they have come from banks, phone providers or the Inland Revenue.
The spokesman added: “Emails from this kind of source rarely have attachments - they usually ask you to take action online through your own secure logon ID.
“If you are in any doubt about whether an email is genuine or not, before you click on the email or any attachment you should always check first with who appears to be the originator, either by logging on to your online accounts and checking that way, or phoning the person if you have their direct contact details – not by clicking anywhere in the email which you’ve received.
“Of course you should always maintain a current back-up of your files in a location away from your computer and network system.”