Ransomware ~ From Russia with love.

A family friend woke up at 6AM, put the coffeemaker on, and switched on her computer, just like she does every morning ready to start the day.

Unfortunately, today was different. Today, she would be in for the shock of her life. The screen above is very similar to the one that greeted her. Needless to say, she was in complete disbelief.

I normally work very late, get home about 1AM, and get to sleep at 2AM. At 6:20AM, I received a call from our friend, she was in hysterics. After 4 hours of barely sleep, it took me a few minutes for my brain fog to clear, calm her down, and realize what had happened to her system. She was just the latest victim in an insidious growing problem worldwide:


What where? What is Ransomware? Ransomware, correctly called cryptoviral extortion, is an insidious type of MalWare that, as it’s name implies, holds your computer hostage by locking it up, preventing you from using it, stopping you from accessing your data, or any other information on your system, until you pay a “ransom”.

The Ransomware usually displays an official looking screen, claiming to be the FBI or some other law enforcement agency, stating that you have child pornography or other illegal content on your system. Your system is locked and disabled until you pay a “fine” to the supposed law enforcement agency, and if you don’t, it threatens you with jail time.

All of this, of course, is fake. Nothing more than a scam. According to Trend Micro, the first cases of orignal ransomware infection were seen between the years 2005 – 2006 in Russia.

There are actually THREE variants of “ransomware”. The lock screen version described above, or the encryption variant.

According to Microsoft:

*Lockscreen ransomware, which displays a full-screen image or webpage that prevents you from accessing anything in your computer, and

*Encryption ransomware, which encrypts your files with a password, preventing you from opening them.

Microsoft also gives some tips on how to remove it if you are targeted.

The THIRD version is actually the newest, referred to as the $300 FBI Virus, among many other names. Apparently, you see nothing but a black screen, and streaming audio plays, stating your system is locked by the FBI, etc.

The particular ransomware that our friend received was quite a nasty one, and she decided to take her computer in to one of the large office supply stores that has on site computer repair technicians.

Predictably, the technicians at the store told her they have been seeing a higher incidence of ransomware.

Oh, but wait, there’s more. It gets even worse. Your computer isn’t the only thing under attack. Ransomware is such a growing menace, that it doesn’t stop at just infecting your home computer, it can infect something much more personal, that you depend on, something you don’t want to let out of your hand.

Your mobile device. That’s right, antivirus masters at Symantech have identified Ransomware versions that are also attacking Android based mobile devices, called Android.FakeDefender.

OK, so how do you get RID of ransomware if you are unlucky enough to get it on your system?

There is an excellent guide here, with tips ranging from fairly easy, to advanced, getting your hands into the operating system of your computer, a task not for the inexperienced, or faint of heart.

You may want to opt for the recommendation I made to our friend, take your PC to a qualified A+ Certified computer technician, such as those found in office supply chain retailers.

Unfortunately, there is no inexpensive way out of it. Expect to pay approx $200-$300 to get it removed from your system. What you do NOT want to do is pay the scammers their ransom. They will take your money, and you will still be left with a locked PC.

The best solution is prevention so you don’t get it in the first place.  Purchase a good Anti-Malware and Anti-Virus software for your system, and run it frequently.



Photo Credit: Ars Technica.

Jacques Redmond

About Jacques Redmond

I'm an I.T. Security Professional, Technology Analyst, Consultant, & Tech Writer Protecting You From Viruses, Malware, Trojans, Hackers, and other Cyber Threats. I enjoy taking complicated subjects, and putting them in a way that's easy for everyone to understand. My site INFORMATIONWARFARE.US gives free advice to combat threats to your system.