EDGE 2015 is starting in

Find out more EDGE 2015
Menu
Ransom malware gangs making huge profits, Symantec discovers

Ransom malware gangs making huge profits, Symantec discovers

The new scareware is here

The problem of ransom malware has reached epidemic proportions and could be extracting fraudulent payments from as many as 3 percent of victims, a Symantec report has calculated.

In a world already afflicted by botnets, banking Trojans and established problems such as keyloggers and spam, ransomware - programs that 'lock' victims' computers or files until a ransom payment is made - has grown into a major problem, with surprisingly little coverage from security vendors until recently.

Symantec's report Ransomware: A Growing Menace attempts to shed more light on the problem and comes up with some disturbing findings.

The scams uncovered by the trawl are remarkable for the scale of their ambition, the localisation they employ to help dupe victims and the sheer aggressiveness of their tactics.

The company identified at least 16 distinct families circulating among mostly Russian-based criminal groups, each with its own development cycle. Several of these could have originated with a single master programmer, suggesting a layered industry not unlike that which developed around fake antivirus programs four years ago.

Coming in a variety of forms - a popular tactic is to impersonate national police forces - the criminals demand payment from PC users for a variety of bogus 'crimes' such as using unauthorised software or downloading illegal content.

Sums demanded range from $50 to $200. Disturbingly, Symantec's investigation of one command and control server found that in a single month as many as 2.9 of 68,000 people infected by the malware it controlled were paying up.

On one particular day that would have netted the criminals $33,600 (£21,000) minus any losses lost during money laundering. In a year, some groups must be earning millions from ransom scams which explains the alarming growth of the problem.

Although under-reported, there are plenty of examples of ransomware attacks if you join up the dots.

Last month, 30 businesses in one Australian state were reported to have been hit by ransom malware, with one reportedly paying AUD $3,000 (£1,950) to get the PIN number to unlock their files.

This followed on from earlier warnings by the FBI and UK police that they were receiving a growing number of reports of attacks on consumers. In one incident a medical server in the US was locked up by attackers that demanded a payment be made to retrieve the data intact. These are only the reported attacks - many will go unrecorded.

"As awareness of these scams increases, the attackers and their malware are likely to evolve and use more sophisticated techniques to evade detection and prevent removal. The 'ransom letter' will likely also evolve and the attackers will use different hooks to defraud innocent users," Symantec's researchers conclude.

The firm identifies three eras of ransomware, starting with isolated file encryptors that originated in Russia in 2006. By 2009 the phenomenon was expanding to the lock screens that demand payment; by 2011 ransomware was sophisticated enough to take payments through electronic systems and had started using impersonation as its major line of attack (where criminals will pretend to represent police forces).

EDGE 2015:: For all the latest on EDGE 2015 including the keynote speakers visit the EDGE mini-site now

Follow Us

Join the ARN newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Personal Techsymantecsecurity

Upcoming

Slideshows

In Pictures: 7 things we hate about Twitter

In Pictures: 7 things we hate about Twitter

You probably either love Twitter for its quirkiness and brevity or see it as a pointless waste of time. After nearly a decade on the social scene, Twitter still needs to improve its user experience and fill in notable gaps in the service. These seven problems are long overdue for a fix.

In Pictures: 7 things we hate about Twitter
IN PICTURES: EDGE 2015 - Sponsor Briefing

IN PICTURES: EDGE 2015 - Sponsor Briefing

With EDGE 2015 rapidly approaching, ARN and Reseller News NZ held a Sponsors Briefing where ARN publisher and president, Susan Searle, and Events Manager, Alexandra West, ran through the considerable logistics in detail. Attendees then enjoyed some splendid canapes and drinks. EDGE is designed to bring the A/NZ channel together in a collaborative and educational environment. Themed around channel channel leadership, EDGE will be held at the Sheraton Mirage, Port Douglas, July 20-23. Photos by MIKE GEE.

IN PICTURES: EDGE 2015 - Sponsor Briefing
In Pictures: Robots that cook, clean, sing and dance

In Pictures: Robots that cook, clean, sing and dance

Cooking, learning language and doing the laundry are a few of the human skills demonstrated by.real humanoid bots featured in the National Geographic movie Robots.

In Pictures: Robots that cook, clean, sing and dance

iasset.com is a channel management ecosystem that automates all major aspects of the entire sales, marketing and service process, including data tracking, integrated learning, knowledge management and product lifecycle management.

Show Comments