COMPUTER users in East Lancashire are being urged to protect themselves against malicious software.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) issued a warning about two viruses, known as GOZeuS and CryptoLocker, and said users had a two-week window to protect themselves.

The viruses work by installing malicious software on computers, which monitors the user’s activity until the opportunity arises to capture banking or other private information, which is then transmitted back to the criminals.

Users are typically infected by clicking on attachments or links in emails which may look like they have been sent by genuine contacts and may purport to carry invoices, voicemail messages, or any file made to look innocuous.

Around 15,500 computers in the UK could be infected, it is believed, although multi-agency action around the world has disrupted the network of infected computers, leading to a short window in which to take action.

Deputy director of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, Andy Archibald, said: “Nobody wants their personal financial details, business information or photographs of loved ones to be stolen or held to ransom by criminals. By making use of this two-week window, huge numbers of people in the UK can stop that from happening to them.”

Security software should be installed and updates, the NCA said, and virus scans should be carried out.