Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

Reveton Malware Freezes PCs, Demands Payment

FBI warns of Reveton 'ransomware' scam that freezes Windows PCs, accuses you of a crime, and requests you pay fines to unlock computer.

11 Security Sights Seen Only At Black Hat
11 Security Sights Seen Only At Black Hat
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Has your Windows PC frozen up, displaying a lock screen with warnings from the FBI that the PC has been used to illegally access or distributed copyrighted material, or "prohibited pornographic content"?

If so, then you're likely dealing with "ransomware" known as Reveton, which freezes PCs and opens a window telling people that if they want to regain control, they'll need to pay a "fine" via a prepaid money card service. Helpfully, a "pay MoneyPak" code-entry box is even helpfully included on the lock screen. But unlocking a Reveton-infected PC can be difficult, owing to the malware often being deployed in conjunction with other malware that's designed to block users from accessing security websites.

The FBI last week issued a warning that the number of Reveton infections has recently been surging. "We're getting inundated with complaints," said Donna Gregory, a manager at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is a joint effort between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, in a statement. "Some people have actually paid the so-called fine," she said, noting that amounts of $200 aren't uncommon.

[ Learn how to deal with another important security problem. Read 5 Ways To Solve The Password Reset Problem. ]

"Instructions were given on how to load the card and make the payment," one victim of the scam wrote in an emailed complaint to the IC3. "The page said if the demands were not met, criminal charges would be filed and my computer would remain locked on that screen."

Some versions of the scam pretend to be from the FBI, while others list the Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section as being behind the freeze. Regardless, the warning notices are heavy on the legalese, accusing PC owners of everything from "violating Article 202 of the Criminal Code" to distributing child pornography. According to the FBI, some versions of Reveton even "turn on computer webcams and display the victim's picture on the frozen screen."

Most Reveton infections also seem to be the result of "drive-by viruses," said the FBI, referring to PCs being infected via known vulnerabilities when they visit a compromised website, rather than through phishing attacks or tricking users into opening malicious email attachments.

The Reveton ransomware is typically delivered via Citadel Trojan malware, according to the FBI's warning. Based on the Zeus malware, Citadel is an all-purpose crimeware kit designed for financial fraud, which debuted on Russian underground hacking websites in December 2011 and sells for $2,500, although plug-ins for adding additional capabilities, as well as a monthly malware-as-a-service update, cost extra.

Citadel's creators have seen rapid uptake of their malware, reportedly owing to high-quality customer service practices, such as frequent updates that add customer-requested capabilities. These include AES encryption to help hide communications between infected "zombie" PCs and its command-and-control server, capabilities for defeating botnet-tracking services, and blocks that stop infected PCs from visiting security vendors' websites or antivirus-signature updating sites.

But according to a July 2012 blog post from a fraud research group at security firm RSA, thanks to law enforcement pressure, Citadel's developer has announced that he's withdrawing the malware from the open--albeit underground--market. "It appears that soon enough only existing customers will continue to enjoy Citadel Trojan upgrades and those wishing to purchase a new kit from the outside will have to get a current customer to vouch for them or be denied the product altogether," according to RSA.

Not everyone, however, is buying the bureau's assertion that Citadel is being used to distribute Reveton. According to security journalist Brian Krebs, a team of Reveton-tracking researchers instead suspects that scammers are using exploit toolkits such as BlackHole to infect PCs with both types of malware.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mathew
50%
50%
Mathew,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/16/2012 | 8:29:55 AM
re: Reveton Malware Freezes PCs, Demands Payment
Thanks for the comment, EJW. What people can do is be aware. In case of infection, the FBI's advice was essentially to seek out a computer professional for help, and that's good counsel. Run antivirus software in the first place. But mostly, be aware of these types of scams.
FUD? More, I think the FBI saying: "Please stop calling us about this ransomware, it's not really from us." And a cautionary note that people shouldn't pay up in these attacks. The continued existence of these types of attacks suggests that they're succeeding often enough to be profitable.
-- Mathew Schwartz
EJW
50%
50%
EJW,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2012 | 5:46:30 PM
re: Reveton Malware Freezes PCs, Demands Payment
So what are we supposed to do about it?

What can we do other than the apply "generic" security practice?

Otherwise all this does is generate more FUD
NSA Appoints Rob Joyce as Cyber Director
Dark Reading Staff 1/15/2021
Vulnerability Management Has a Data Problem
Tal Morgenstern, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, Vulcan Cyber,  1/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This is not what I meant by "I would like to share some desk space"
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-3686
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-21
Possible memory out of bound issue during music playback when an incorrect bit stream content is copied into array without checking the length of array in Snapdragon Auto, Snapdragon Compute, Snapdragon Connectivity, Snapdragon Consumer IOT, Snapdragon Industrial IOT, Snapdragon IoT, Snapdragon Mobi...
CVE-2020-3687
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-21
Local privilege escalation in admin services in Windows environment can occur due to an arbitrary read issue in XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
CVE-2020-3691
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-21
Possible out of bound memory access in audio due to integer underflow while processing modified contents in Snapdragon Auto, Snapdragon Compute, Snapdragon Connectivity, Snapdragon Consumer IOT, Snapdragon Industrial IOT, Snapdragon IoT, Snapdragon Mobile, Snapdragon Voice & Music, Snapdragon We...
CVE-2020-11167
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-21
Memory corruption while calculating L2CAP packet length in reassembly logic when remote sends more data than expected in Snapdragon Auto, Snapdragon Compute, Snapdragon Connectivity, Snapdragon Consumer IOT, Snapdragon Industrial IOT, Snapdragon Mobile, Snapdragon Voice & Music, Snapdragon Weara...
CVE-2020-11179
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-21
Arbitrary read and write to kernel addresses by temporarily overwriting ring buffer pointer and creating a race condition. in Snapdragon Auto, Snapdragon Compute, Snapdragon Connectivity, Snapdragon Consumer IOT, Snapdragon Industrial IOT, Snapdragon Mobile, Snapdragon Voice & Music, Snapdragon ...