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Risk

3/26/2009
01:00 PM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
Commentary
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Data Held Hostage! Ransomware Scam Wants Your Money

A new approach to an old wrinkle in cybercrime is showing up: data held hostage. The new ransomware tactic appears to be an evolution, and an aggressive one, of the scareware fake anti-virus scam.

A new approach to an old wrinkle in cybercrime is showing up: data held hostage. The new ransomware tactic appears to be an evolution, and an aggressive one, of the scareware fake anti-virus scam.Security vendor FireEye has reported an evolution in the "scareware" scam. Where crooks have been using fake anti-virus warnings to liberate you from your money, they're now trying out a Trojan that encrypts your data, then demands that you pay for the decryption tools you need to get you information back.

Ransomware has actually been around for some time, but the current approach is exceptionally flexible. The malware that users receive as a result of clicking on a come-on promising a problem fix generates unique executable files, stymieing anti-virus efforts.

The malware itself takes your most common -- and most frequently used -- file types, including. doc, .pdf, image files and so on -- and encrypts them. Your "My Documents" folder is the chief target.

Then the scam hits: Download a file-fizer. Do that, and you'll be tapped for $50 to decrypt the files and return them to usefulness.

The encryption itself has proved fairly easy to fix.

FireEye offers a file decrypter here

Bleepingcomputer has a file decrypter here.

But the point isn't how easy it is to get your files back, it's the importance of avoiding falling for this sort of scam -- or finding that one of your employees or co-workers has fallen for it -- in the first place.

The other point, the scary one, is that while this particular approach to ransoming your information is relatively easy to work around, it's early days yet. Each time the crooks find an approach that works, they refine it, toughen it, make its self-protective features stronger and harder to defend against.

Time to get your guard up, tighten and re-tighten your defense, and make sure every person in your organization is doing the same.

For legitimate encryption tips, don't miss bMighty's How To Encrypt Your Business Data For Free

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