Published Wednesday, 04 June 2014
The scam has been reported across the world. (© Getty)
The FBI is leading a major worldwide hunt - thought to be one of the largest law enforcement operations of its kind - to track down those responsible for the malicious software, or malware, known as GOZeuS, and CryptLocker.
The rogue programmes silently install themselves onto users' computers and monitor activity in order to steal important financial information in order to raid bank accounts.
They are thought to gain access by appearing to look like attachments or links from genuine contacts, who have already had their computers compromised.
There have been reports that, once information is obtained, users are offered a "discounted ransom" of between £200 and £300 in order to have their information returned and discarded by the malicious programme.
The National Crime Agency believes around 15,000 computers could have been attacked already in the UK, potentially costing millions and has warned people they have two weeks to protect their systems.
It is urging people to ensure their computer's operating system and anti-virus software are up-to-date.
The PSNI has joined forces with the non-profit awareness campaign organisation Get Safe Online to encourage the public and businesses to protect their sensitive information and back-up important files.
A spokesman said: "Members of the public can protect themselves by making sure security software is installed and updated, by running scans and checking that computer operating systems and applications are up to date.
"Individuals may receive notifications from their internet service providers that they are a victim of this malware and are advised to back up all important information - such as files, photography and videos.
"Businesses should also test their incident responses and business resilience protocols and work with their IT departments or suppliers to educate employees on the potential threat."
© UTV News