Ransomware seems to be the hacker’s latest toy. When I say it that way, that’s not to minimize either the hackers or the potency of the attack. I might better have started by saying that ransomware seems to be the tech security writer’s latest darling. It’s what they’re focusing on, right now. That’s because of the nature of ransomware. It encrypts an infected device, requiring a password key to access the data. Except the encryption isn’t created by the user, it’s generated by malware.
Ransomware isn’t new, despite the sudden interest. There are reports at least as far back as 2012. Those were for iOS and OS X. Since then, there have been malware variants for Windows, Android, and Windows. No one is immune. The original Apple version of ransomware played on a Safari browser vulnerability and fake law enforcement messages stating the user had been caught trafficking in “prohibited pornographic content.” The user could avoid prosecution by paying a fine via electronic currency.
There were a variety of sites infected with the malicious code and even innocent image searches such as looking for Taylor Swift photos could suddenly bring up that message. Nonetheless, there were lots of people who paid out of real or imagined guilt. That was browser based and not necessarily permanent, even if it could frighten people.
Reuters calls ransomware “one of the fastest-growing types of cyber threats” and further adds that requirements for payment are in “hard-to-trace digital currencies.” And, obviously, from our earlier descriptions, ransomware has gotten more serious, sophisticated, and difficult to deal with.
The threat of the latest ransomware is that it uses a variety of means to get on computers and networks, encrypt them, then hold the encrypted system hostage for a ransom. For the average user, that can mean memories and possibly work files held hostage. If you’ve paid attention to the news, a hospital paid lots of money to get back access to its network. That time, it involved patient records and hospital business operations. There were speculations on several newscasts that there might be patient lives possibly being at risk if more of a hospital’s operations were on the same network.
Reuters calls the latest attack the first for Apple, but as we’ve seen, it’s only the first of the latest version that attacks Macs. Hackers managed to replace the download copies of the popular Transmission bit torrent client with a “new version” 2.90, this weekend. The creators of Transmission have already replaced that with a safe version 2.92. If you’ve downloaded 2.90, but not run it, just replace it with the safe version.
Are you concerned about ransomware? Have you been hit with ransomware? Let us know in the comments.