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12/3/2015
02:30 PM
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Chimera Ransomware Trying To Recruit More Operators From Victim Pool

Malware that first appeared in September is now building a ransomware-as-a-service business.

In a weird twist on Stockholm Syndrome, the Chimera ransomware is taking victims hostage, then recruiting them to be part of the criminal team, according to researchers at Trend Micro's Trend Labs.

Compared to other ransom messages, Chimera's is refreshingly brief, straightforward, and polite: it says "please" twice. What's particularly noteworthy, though is the addition at the bottom:

"Take advantage of our affiliate program! More information in the source code of this file."

The disassembled code does actually contain contact info -- a Bitmessage address through which both parties can have their identities masked and their communication encrypted. From the report:

Peddling ransomware as a service (or RaaS) has some advantages. RaaS lessens the possibility of the illegal activity being traced back to the creators. Selling ransomware as a service allows creators to enjoy some profit without the increased risk of detection. For Chimera, the commission is 50%, a large payoff for lesser effort.

The drawback of the model is that the code itself is less sophisticated -- with a weak command-and-control infrastructure and no obfuscation techniques.

Chimera first appeared on the scene in September, demonstrating another unique tactic -- threatening to publish a victim's files online if payment is not received. The threats, however, might be empty. According to TrendLabs, "our analysis reveals the malware has no capability of siphoning the victim's files to a command-and-control (C&C) server."

It's not uncommon for ransomware to make empty threats. As Engin Kirda, chief architect at LastLine, has told Dark Reading before, some ransomware claims to encrypt files when it can't. Yet, as Michael Sentonas, vice president and chief technology officer of Security Connected for Intel Security, wrote on Dark Reading, "It is not clear if Chimera actually exports your files and can carry out the threat, but if it cannot, the next one will."

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

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Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 7:14:31 AM
Jeez...
I really hate ransomware. It's the most malicious of all malware if you ask me. The idea that it would take those precious memories from people and hold them hostage is so gross. 

Still, I wonder if law enforcement or security firms will be able to use the affiliate communications to track down who's behind it?
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
12/4/2015 | 10:07:23 AM
Re: Jeez...
@whoopty  I've been wondering the same thing -- whether law enforcement could use this recruitment thing against them. The fact that they're using Bitmessage certainly makes it more difficult, but at least it opens another line of communication that wasn't there before.

I'm not a fan of ransomware either. (What you said about it reminded me of the things a detective said about kidnappers in a crime novel I read.) But what I really hate are blackmailers and doxing attackers, so the fact that Chimera is adding doxing to ransomware (or at least threatening to) is particularly upsetting.

Although I have to confess... the sociology behind the wide variety of ransom messages is really fascinating to me.
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