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

7/18/2016
03:15 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Ransomware Victims Rarely Pay The Full Ransom Price

The purveyors of cyber-extortion schemes often willing to negotiate their ransom fees, F-Secure study finds.

Victims of ransomware scams almost never need to pay full sticker price to get their encrypted data back.

Those willing to negotiate can often get their ransom amount reduced substantially and obtain useful deadline extensions for paying it, a new report from F-Secure shows.

The security vendor recently conducted an experiment to evaluate what it described as the "customer experience" associated with five crypto-ransomware samples currently in the wild. The families evaluated for the experiment were Cerber, Jigsaw, Cryptomix, Shade, and TorrentLocker.

For the experiment, researchers at F-Secure created a victim persona named Christine Walters and used a fake Hotmail account in her name to communicate with the ransomware operators via their support channels. In order to appear convincing, Walters’ persona was made to appear as though she knew very little about ransomware, security, and Bitcoin, the preferred online currency for making ransom payments.  

The exercise showed that when victims dig in their heels a bit, criminals are likely to relent and try to make what they can rather than risk losing everything, says Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure.

“If you find yourself compromised, haggle,” Sullivan says. “Ask questions. Interact with the ransomware agent and get a feel for their responsiveness. The majority want to get something rather than nothing, and will cut a deal to close the case.”

The criminals behind three of the five ransomware families in F-Secure’s experiment were willing to negotiate on the ransom amount when asked. On average, they dropped the ransom amount by 29%. The TorrentLocker operators did not respond at all to "Walters’" emails, while those behind Cerber flatly refused to negotiate. In each case, the agents with whom Walters communicated were similarly willing to extend their payment deadlines--sometimes by days--when asked.

The operators of Cryptomix had the highest initial ransom amount at around $2,000. But when F-Secure’s reviewer protested the sticker price, the Cryptomix agent who responded to her email first dropped the demand by $1,000. Over the course of the next two days, the agent agreed to drop the demand by another $350, before holding firm at $650.

Similarly, the agent responding to emails pertaining to the Shade ransomware sample was willing to drop the ransom amount from $400 to $280 when F-Secure’s reviewer protested the original amount.

Among the ransomware families in the F-Secure study, the one with the best customer support was Jigsaw. The initial ransom amount at $150 was substantially lower than the ransoms demanded by the other ransomware families. The support agent for the malware agreed to reduce the amount to $125 when requested, and then offered help in finding a Bitcoin vendor. The Jigsaw support agent even helped F-Secure’s reviewer find stores in her local area that accepted payments for Bitcoins using Paysafecards, and also offered to stay online while payment was made.

“The perceived friendliness of some of the interactions was sincerely confusing to our reviewer,” Sullivan says. “Had they not been coached by me, I suspect they might be successfully socially engineered in other circumstances.”

English was the preferred language of communication for all of the malware families that F-Secure reviewed and all the chat interactions demanded knowledge of English.

Since 2005, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received more than 7,700 complaints involving ransomware according to data released earlier this year. The incidents have resulted in victims paying more than $57 million in ransom money to cyber extortionists. The ransom fees have ranged in amounts from $200 to $10,000.

In addition, over the last one year, the US Department of Homeland Security has received over 320 incident reports of ransomware related activity on 29 federal agency networks. So far, though, no federal agency has had to pay a ransom in order to get ransomware removed from their computers, DHS says.

Related stories:

 

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Whoopty
50%
50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
7/20/2016 | 7:25:02 AM
Positive
That's good to know and shows that Ransomware doesn't necessarily need to be quite as scary as it often seems. Considering the hackers are getting something for nothing though, it makes sense that they would work with those affected - especially since an unfamiliarity with Bitcoin is likely to be common place in the people who are caught out by phishing and other scams that lead to ransomware infections.
A41202813GMAIL
50%
50%
A41202813GMAIL,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/21/2016 | 1:12:20 AM
Re: Positive
What Is The Difference Between RansomWare And A System Hard Drive Completely Unrecoverable ? - Absolutely None.

 

Some Basic Users Can Be Caught With Their Pants Down, But, For Companies, The Absence Of Multiple Backups Is Unforgivable - Any IT Manager Incapable Of Solving This Problem Single Handedly Should Be Fired On The Spot.

 
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/3/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
New 'Nanodegree' Program Provides Hands-On Cybersecurity Training
Nicole Ferraro, Contributing Writer,  8/3/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-11937
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-06
In whoopsie, parse_report() from whoopsie.c allows a local attacker to cause a denial of service via a crafted file. The DoS is caused by resource exhaustion due to a memory leak. Fixed in 0.2.52.5ubuntu0.5, 0.2.62ubuntu0.5 and 0.2.69ubuntu0.1.
CVE-2020-15114
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-06
In etcd before versions 3.3.23 and 3.4.10, the etcd gateway is a simple TCP proxy to allow for basic service discovery and access. However, it is possible to include the gateway address as an endpoint. This results in a denial of service, since the endpoint can become stuck in a loop of requesting i...
CVE-2020-15136
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-06
In ectd before versions 3.4.10 and 3.3.23, gateway TLS authentication is only applied to endpoints detected in DNS SRV records. When starting a gateway, TLS authentication will only be attempted on endpoints identified in DNS SRV records for a given domain, which occurs in the discoverEndpoints func...
CVE-2020-15701
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-06
An unhandled exception in check_ignored() in apport/report.py can be exploited by a local attacker to cause a denial of service. If the mtime attribute is a string value in apport-ignore.xml, it will trigger an unhandled exception, resulting in a crash. Fixed in 2.20.1-0ubuntu2.24, 2.20.9-0ubuntu7.1...
CVE-2020-15702
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-06
TOCTOU Race Condition vulnerability in apport allows a local attacker to escalate privileges and execute arbitrary code. An attacker may exit the crashed process and exploit PID recycling to spawn a root process with the same PID as the crashed process, which can then be used to escalate privileges....