Abu Dhabi: Residents in the capital are falling victim to hackers who are falsely claiming that personal devices have been locked by the Ministry of Interior.

As part of the new hacking efforts — which have been increasingly hitting computer devices in the capital — users are ordered to pay a fee through CashU, an online payment website, within 72 hours or risk being prosecuted.

“I was sitting in my clinic checking my e-mail when suddenly my screen displayed a message which had the picture of UAE ministers and the police logo saying that I have violated copyright laws and have committed a cyber crime,” a dermatologist in the capital told Gulf News.

The phenomenon which has become increasingly common during the past week has even reached several local companies throughout the capital prompting them to alert their employees to shut down their device in case such a message appears.

Employees have also been warned against clicking on any strange links, especially if their computer devices have been infected.

Information Technology (IT) specialists have said that formatting the infected computer could be a solution.

After receiving several phone calls to their Operations Room, the Ministry of Interior is warning residents against falling victim to the scam and to ensure that their devices are fitted with an active anti-virus software to protect themselves. In addition, residents are advised to stay clear of any suspicious websites and links.

The Abu Dhabi Police Security Media has broadcast a set of instructions on social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter for computer users in order to help them against cyber crimes.

Colonel Ebrahim Sultan Al Za’abi, Deputy Head of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Abu Dhabi Police, advised residents to continuously update their anti-virus software, Java and Adobe, and to authenticate their operating system.

In addition, Al Za’abi urged computer users to avoid downloading pirated software and media items as these may contain a code which accesses their private information.