A Nasty New Twist In Ransomware: To Decrypt Your Files Without Paying, Spread The Infection To Others
from the putting-the-mal-in-malware dept
Techdirt first wrote about ransomware back in 2010. Even then, we noted it was nothing new, but that a further twist on the idea had appeared. Well, here we are, nearly in 2017, and ransomware is still with us — so much for tech progress — and new twists are still appearing, as the Guardian reported recently:
Any user who finds themselves infected with the Popcorn Time malware (named after, but unrelated to, the bittorrent client) is offered the ability to unlock their files for a cash payment, usually one bitcoin ($772.67/?613.20).
But they also have a second option, described by the developers as “the nasty way”: passing on a link to the malware. “If two or more people install this file and pay, we will decrypt your files for free”.
This really puts the “mal” in “malware,” since it makes a naked appeal to a victim’s worst nature. A post on the site BleepingComputer.com offers more details of what seems to be a “work” in progress, including a screenshot of the ransom note, which contains the following information about those who claim to be behind this:
We are a group of computer science students from Syria, as you probably know Syria is having bad time for the last 5 years. Since 2011 we have more than half million people died and over 5 million refugees. Each part of our team has lost a dear member from his family. I personally have lost both my parents and my little sister in 2015. The sad part of this war is that all the parts keep fighting but eventually we the poor and simple people suffer and watching our family and friends die each day. The world remained silent and no one helping us so we decided to take an action.
Be perfectly sure that all the money that we get goes to food, medicine, shelter to our people. We are extremely sorry that we are forcing you to pay but that’s the only way that we can keep living.
Well, maybe. But given the ruthlessness of the coders in offering a “nasty way” out of their threats, perhaps this is just another shrewd attempt to manipulate the ransomware victims — one that is cynically exploiting the very real Syrian tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes.
Until now, malware has been a simple arms race between the authors of harmful code, and the companies making anti-virus products that try to spot the code before it can infect a user’s system. The new Popcorn Time ransomware adds a new dimension, and seeks to make the victim an active and complicit vector of infection.
This opens up all kinds of possibilities. For example, we might see ransomware that starts to offer bonuses according to the number of people you infect. You can always claim it was the malware, not you, that sent the program, and nobody will know about your Bitcoin payments. Maybe inventive Techdirt readers can come up with a few more “nasty” ideas that build on this latest twist in ransomware coding.