3/26/2010
03:15 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary

Ransomware Continues To Soar

New analysis on the ransomware trend shows how cyber thieves are increasingly holding systems hostage in an attempt to extort users.



New analysis on the ransomware trend shows how cyber thieves are increasingly holding systems hostage in an attempt to extort users.According to Derek Manky of Internet security firm Fortinet's FortiGuard Global Security Research Team, attackers aren't holding any punches when it comes to spreading their attacks. They're employing SEO-poisoning, drive-by Web downloads, infiltrating web advertisement servers, as well as phishing and other forms of attacks to spread their malware.

They're also increasingly turning to ransomware as a way to boost their profits. As the name implies, ransomware attempts to lock victim's files through encryption or incapacitate their systems until the target pays a fee. After paying the fee the victim is given a code that will provide access back to locked files and applications.

For these criminals, explains Manky, business is good and growing. Of the top ten malware threats Fortinet is seeing, nine are some form of ransomware or scareware.

It was bad enough a few years ago when scareware applications frightened users with bogus security alerts to spend $80 for fake software that didn't do a thing. But I guess that wasn't profitable enough as criminals have merged scareware tactics with ransomware extortion.

That's been the case with the growing threat of a scam known as Total Security. That ransomware, according to Manky, has been spreading in recent months by a botnet known as Cutwail. While another ransomware threat known as DigiPad also made the radar. DigiPad is a (Russian language) SMS blocker. SMS blockers typically lock people out of their systems, or specific applications, and users must send a text message (with a fee associated, of course) to a number provided by the fraudsters.

Here's a bit on DigiPog from Fortinet's Threat Report that was published today:

DigiPog is an SMS blocker using Russian language, locking out a system and aggressively killing off popular applications like Internet Explorer and FireFox until an appropriate code is entered into a field provided to the user. To obtain the code, a user must send a SMS message to the provided number, receiving a code in return. This SMS blocker advertises the Russian site "active-acs.com." Upon execution, DigiPog registers the user's MAC address with its server. While SMS-based ransomware threats aren't particularly new, it is the first time one has landed in our Top 10 list, and provides further proof that the rise of ransomware is well on its way.

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