New porn virus holds your browsing history hostage

In the beginning, most computer viruses were simply aimed at causing trouble for users and giving the virus creator bragging rights. But increasingly, these individuals and organizations are writing viruses aimed at making them rich. The most recent example is a virus that threatens to publish your browsing history online unless you pay a ransom of $15.

The virus which is reportedly the work of a Japanese gang, infects computers that connect to a Winni, a popular file-sharing site in Japan that claims up to 200 million users, and enables the download of an illegal game file. Once users download the infected file, the program takes a screenshot of the the sites they have visited online, often including sites that users wouldn't want their spouses, family, friends and employers learning about; and puts it online under their name.


If the user doesn't pay $15 U.S. immediately, the file will go live online and eventually be picked up by Google and incorporated into search results. With more employers turning to Google for a look at job candidates, this type of information could be a deal breaker if you've been surfing the seedier side of the Web.

In the instance of the Kenzero virus, the BBC reports that 5,500 individuals have already admitted to being a victim of the virus, which was distributed in a target-rich environment. The Winni file-sharing site is known for, amongst other file types, pornographic material. Combine the potential for embarrassment with the relatively low ransom and the virus-writing gang has the potential to make a significant amount of money (and gather credit card details as well).

The easiest way to avoid viruses like this is to avoid downloading copyrighted material illegally. In addition, you should also be sure to have an up-to-date antivirus program like AVG Free or the reputation-checking Norton 360, to keep you protected from viruses that make their way to your computer. If you do become the victim of a ransom-ware virus, don't give the criminal your credit card number, unless you want that information sold to the highest bidder.

While you're at it you should look at using your browser's private browsing mode when you are visiting sites that you don't want to share with other users of your computers, or in this case the world. In private browsing mode, the browser doesn't store information about the sites you visit. Here's how to turn on private browsing in Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer.

Now go out and surf -- but be careful out there!

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