Symantec finds Breaking Bad-themed ransomware

A new strain of ransomware styled on TV show Breaking Bad has been uncovered by Symantec.

The malware features the logo and branding of the programme's meth lab, a fictional fried chicken shop called Los Pollos Hermanos, as well as also referencing lead character Walter White.

The email address provided for "support related enquiries" is based on a popular quote from the show, "I am the one who knocks".

The threat is targeting Australian computers and encrypts users' files until they pay the attackers in the hard-to-tracedigital currency, Bitcoin.

The hackers demand an initial payment of AU$450 (228.95), which then rises to AU$1000 (508.79) if not delivered within a specified time.

Symantec believes that targets are infected through email phishing campaign, using a ZIP archive masquerading as a file from a major courier firm.

The security team wrote in a blog post: "When executed, [this] downloads the crypto ransomware onto the victim's computer. The threat also downloads and opens a legitimate .pdf file to trick users into thinking that the initial zip archive was not a malicious file."

It added that attackers may be using elements from an open-source penetration testing project that uses Microsoft Powershell to remotely execute script.

The malware targets almost 40 different types of file extension, including audio, video, document and archive files.

This isn't the first time that malware authors have displayed a sense of humour. The very first virus, Cascade, caused all of the text on a user's screen to fall off', giving the appearance of a heap of characters at the bottom of the screen.

Guest editor's view

TechUK CEO Julian David says: The concept of the charming bad guy with a sense of occasion and sense of humour has a long history from Dick Turpin to the Pink Panther. So I guess we should not be surprised that cybercriminals are adopting the funny guy approach. The bottom line is that the people who do this are not entertainers they are criminals and they can destroy businesses and lives. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this is that these criminals have the time and resources to add such flourishes to their efforts to rip people off.

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.