Ransomware Schemes Expanding, Intensifying: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

According to recent reports, the number of 'ransomware' scams being used to scare computer users into giving up some of their money is increasing.

Security experts believe at least sixteen different organizations are using sophisticated schemes like this to extort money from people in Europe. The number of groups trying the same basic scam stateside also appears to be growing.

A ransomware scam involves installing malicious software on a targeted computer and then blocking access to that computer until the victim agrees to pay a substantial sum of money.

In many cases, victimized PC users turn on their computers one day and are confronted by a brand new message insisting that, until they pay a certain sum, they will not be able to use their computer.

Ransomware Scams Vary in Nature

There are variations on this basic scam, of course. For example, there have been reports of ransomware that shows disturbing images until victims agree to pay a fee, which can often amount to hundreds of dollars or more.

In some instances, the ransom message is delivered to victims by people pretending to represent law enforcement agencies, the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation, or even the internationally-renowned 'hacktivist' group Anonymous.

Security experts believe that ransomware schemes now generate roughly $5 million per year for the people executing them. (Source: nytimes.com)

It's a relatively new type of attack that emerged just three years ago, with most of these crooks operating out of Eastern Europe. More recently, ransomware organizations have also emerged in Europe, and authorities believe some are now making their way into the U.S.

Initially, these schemes were relatively easy to detect, largely because the Eastern Europeans behind them knew little English and made mistakes in writing their messages.

Schemes Becoming Far More 'Professional'

However, in recent months the scams have become far more 'professional,' using messages that can easily be taken for legitimate messages from well-known law enforcement or other government agencies. (Source: tech2.in.com)

Security experts believe the best way to avoid having your computer become infected with ransomware is to keep it from connecting with any of the Internet's seedy districts.

Cyber criminals often hide malicious software links inside websites featuring illicit images. In essence, visiting a red light district on the web isn't much different than visiting one in real life: both scenarios offer a strong likelihood of getting infected with something.

Experts also insist it's important never to pay when confronted with a ransomware message. Paying actually encourages the crooks to try shaking you down again.

In addition, there's no reason to trust that the scammers will release your computer just because you paid them. 

Instead, immediately contact the proper authorities and also install antivirus software that can free up a computer that is locked down by ransomware.

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