New Ransomware Demand: Play Video Game, Not Cash

John Lister's picture

A newly unleashed ransomware attack doesn't force victims to pay money to regain access to files. Instead, it demands they play a video game.

It's not clear yet what the point of the attack is, though it's most likely the work of a prankster who wants to test their skills at creating and distributing ransomware without doing any permanent harm.

Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts files on a computer and normally only unlocks them if the victim pays a fee. In most cases every file on the computer is encrypted, meaning that victims are locked out of their systems and unable to access their files. Victims are left to decide between paying the ransom (and hoping the scammers are good for their word) or wiping their hard drive and reinstalling both the operating system and their files from a backup, if one's available.

The new 'PUBG Battlegounds' ransomware isn't quite so bad. The only files in encrypts are those on the Windows desktop (including files inside any folders stored on the desktop). It then adds the file custom file extension .PUBG.

No Financial Incentive

One way to decrypt the files is to play the game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. While this will cost around $30 to acquire if the victim doesn't already have it, there's no link to buy it, so the ransomware author isn't out to make any commission from affiliate links.

There's also a couple of factors that make this element of the ransomware less painful that it might otherwise be to non-gamers. One is that although the 'ransom demand' says victims must play the game for an hour, it appears the files decrypt after just three seconds.

The other is that the only way the ransomware checks if the victim is playing the game is to see if the file TslGame.exe is active on the computer. While this will indeed be the case if the game is played, it should also be possible for more advanced users to create and run a harmless file of that name. (Source: vice.com)

Unlock Code Avoids Gameplay

The ransom demand also offers an option to simply cut and paste an unlock code (included in the demand) into a text box rather than play a game. It appears this will actually work. (Source: bleepingcomputer.com)

While this ransomware is more of an irritation than a menace, it could also serve as a wake-up call as it shows the victim needs to plug a gap in their computer's security.

What's Your Opinion?

Why might somebody create such a bizarre piece of ransomware? Should the person or persons responsible still face punishment if caught? If so, should this be as serious a punishment as if they had forced victims to pay money?

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