Lock My PC is being removed from the public domain and free recovery keys are on offer to combat a wave of complaints concerning the software being abused by tech support scammers.
Lock My PC is software offered on a free and business basis by FSPRO Labs, an organization which has also developed drive encryption and file access restriction software. Lock My PC is designed to keep PCs safe from unauthorized access, such as when it is left unattended, by creating a lock screen that requires a password to remove.
According to the developer, Lock My PC also disables hotkeys, the mouse, and CD/DVD systems.
The software used to be widely available for free to download -- including by scammers to exhort payment from victims by locking their PCs.
Tech support scammers will pretend to be from well-known companies including Microsoft, Apple, and Google, and may send phishing emails or perform cold calls, warning that a would-be victim's PC is infected with a virus or needs a clean, update, or maintenance.
See also: As coronavirus challenges mount, WHO's reputation is being hijacked for data theft scams
The scam artists attempt to gain control of a PC through remote control software and by abusing the Windows Syskey.exe program, encrypting the machine and setting a password to force victims to pay a fee to have access restored. This used to be a common method, but changes made by Microsoft have made this technique less effective in recent years.
As noted by Bleeping Computer, support for Syskey was removed by Microsoft in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, leaving scammers to find other means to lockdown PCs on modern setups.
In a notice posted to the software's development page, FSPRO Labs says that there have been "too many reports of Lock My PC misuse" by scammers who are impersonating technology support teams, installing Lock My PC remotely, and restricting user access.
"Since Lock My PC was available for free download from our site, we were unable to control who used this software and for what purposes," the developers say. "However, we consider such activities as cybercrime and a gross violation of [the] Lock My PC license agreement."
CNET: Everything you need to know about SIM swap fraud, plus one thing to do right now
FSPRO Labs has provided a free password recovery feature for those who may have already fallen prey to tech support scammers utilizing the software.
The free version of the software can be unlocked by typing "999901111" in the password line, which will reveal a numeric recovery code. This code can then be submitted to the software's recovery page to generate a new recovery password able to unlock your PC.
The company has also chosen to remove the user access control software from the public domain. Existing customers can still obtain Lock My PC and the business edition can be applied for using a corporate email address, but each request will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
TechRepublic: How Shadow IT could put your organization at risk
Tech support scams are a menace, and more often than not, fraudsters get away with it; however, some perpetrators are tracked down and caught. In 2019, a tech scammer from North Carolina pleaded guilty to defrauding US citizens out of roughly $3 million over the course of four years, and two individuals were arrested on suspicion of operating tech support scam websites and billing over 7,500 victims for unnecessary support fees. In the latter case, the duo allegedly made over $10 million by preying on the vulnerable and the elderly.
10 worst hacks and data breaches of 2019 (in pictures)
Previous and related coverage
Have a tip? Get in touch securely via WhatsApp | Signal at +447713 025 499, or over at Keybase: charlie0