Virus software that blackmails users by locking them out of their computer or encrypting their computer's files in some manner. Also known as a "cryptovirus" or "cryptotrojan," a typical ransomware approach that takes only a few seconds to accomplish is to encrypt the indexes in the file system. This disables access to all the data and programs in the computer because the file system is the doorway to everything in storage (see file system
). The ransomware then demands payment in Bitcoin to restore the data.
A favorite ploy is an FBI message claiming the user has child pornography on the computer, and a fine must be paid or else risk arrest. After paying the blackmail on any of these ransomware attacks, the user's machine may or may not be restored.
CryptoLocker - An Insipiration
In 2013, the creators of CryptoLocker collected millions in ransom by infecting Windows PCs until its distribution was halted a year later by the FBI and Interpol. CryptoLocker was the inspiration for other ransomware variants (gotta love that entrepreneurial spirit!). See Petya
Mobile Phones Too
In 2014, using the same FBI scare tactic, thousands of Android users found their phones locked with demands for payment. See scareware
In 2019, two Florida cities paid their attackers more than $1 million to remove ransomware. Cybercrooks are increasingly asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars when they have breached a large organization or government entity. If there is any bright side to this, more organizations both public and private, are developing or improving their backup and recovery programs. See disaster recovery
As a result of this delightful phenomenon, numerous firms such as Trend Micro, Symantic, Malwarebytes and Avast Software have added ransomware protection in their lines of security products.
FBI MoneyPak Ransomware
Imagine finding your computer frozen with an FBI alert saying you violated one or more video, music or software copyrights or that you distributed child pornography. It demands that you put $200 cash into a MoneyPak card and enter the card number within 72 hours to unlock your computer as well as prevent the initiation of a criminal case.