A form of malware employing pay-by-phone extortion has been identified as a new means for cyber criminals to literally hold users' PCs to ransom.
The new 'ransomware,' as it's being called, locks up a user's PC and demands $35 (17.67) to renew bogus "browser security and anti-adware software" licences before returning control back to the user, a US security research firm said earlier this week.
The backdoor Trojan, identified by Florida-based Sunbelt Software as "Delf.ctk" is typically installed through security exploits, giving an attacker unauthorised access to a PC and the means to remotely control it without the user's knowledge.
The resulting fake Microsoft alert screens which lock up the system direct users to the internet protocol (IP) address of a payment processor of pornographic websites, 'passwordtwoenter.com' and a number of other similar sites.
Sunbelt chief executive, Alex Eckleberry, said in a blog posting on Monday that "you're completely locked out of the system" after the Trojan is run and installed, and that the only way to regain control is to pay the fee being demanded via phone numbers it lists.
Both the telephone numbers and websites sharing the passwordtoenter.com IP address trace back to a Seychelles-based company called Global Voice. But the company has failed to respond to email enquiries about the reports.
"Apparently, this is a payment processor that's now being used for malware, whether they know it or not," added Eckleberry.
Although ransomware is not a completely new cybercrime tactic, the last outbreak was reported over six months ago, when the Trojan horse "Gpcoder," froze user access to PC files for a ransom of $300 (151.44) a time.
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A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.
Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.