A newly discovered threat aims to steal Netflix user credentials and hold them hostage, according to researchers at Trend Micro.
Netflix has 93 million subscribers in more than 190 countries. It's a popular app, but many people aren't willing to pay the monthly subscription fee. They'll try to bypass the cost and watch content for free - and cybercriminals are now taking advantage of them.
This newly detected ransomware, RANSOM_NETIX.A, aims to trick Windows PC users with a login generator typically used for software and account membership piracy. This type of program is found on malicious websites promising access to paid Web-based services.
How does it work? Victims click a "Generate Login" button to kick-start the encryption process. The ransomware uses fake login prompts as a distraction while it encrypts 39 file types under the C:\Users directory.
The program then demands $100 in Bitcoin from victims. While it targets Windows users, it's worth noting the ransomware destroys itself on systems not running Windows 7 or Windows 10.
Netflix, with its massive user base, presents a tempting opportunity for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities, infect systems to steal user data, and monetize data on the dark Web. Stolen credentials can be used to bargain among criminals or trick victims into installing malware, which can generate profit.
"We regularly see threat actors utilize popular apps or services as a lure to get victims to infect themselves," explains Jon Clay, global director of threat communications at Trend Micro. "Also, by using imagery that is similar to the real vendor's imagery, [criminals] trick the victim into thinking it's real."
Clay says this discovery marks a continuation of 2016 ransomware trends, which included the creation of new tactics to generate more victims. After seeing nearly 750% growth in new ransomware families in 2016, Trend Micro predicted 25% growth in new families for 2017.
The Netflix scam carries implications for how ransomware will evolve later in the year.
"We will likely see other popular vendors targeted with their brands, especially if the actors behind [the Netflix scam] find success," he continues. "They will use this tactic again with other vendors."
This is a wake-up call for potential victims to protect their accounts. Best practices include regularly updating account credentials, employing two-factor authentication, limiting downloads to official sources, and being wary of illegitimate emails.
Businesses should educate their employees on how ransomware threats work, and how using legitimate brands in social engineering attacks can trick victims into making dangerous decisions. Employees should be aware that trying to obtain a free Netflix account is "bogus," says Clay, and should not be acted upon.
Social engineering is core to this type of scam, and users can protect themselves by avoiding downloads from sketchy websites or clicking suspicious ads. If a deal seems too good to be true, it typically is.