Ransomware has increasingly become the de facto cybercrime, with WannaCry recently infecting over 300,000 computers around the globe. But ones that take on nasty new personalities may be the future.
Dubbed Popcorn Time, this version of ransomware was discovered last year late last year. It's one of the nastiest forms of ransomware to date, as noted by the New York Times. Like most ransomware, it attempts to hijack your computer and lock you out of your data.
Once that is accomplished, it demands money to get access to that data back. But Popcorn Time (no relation to the streaming movie app) added a twist. It also gave you the option to pass the malware onto more people.
If one of those people clicked on the malware bait, you got control of your computer back, in lieu of paying the one bitcoin ransom, or about $2,365.
Computer security site Bleeping Computer called it malware that “has sunken to new lows by offering the chance of free decryption keys to those who help spread the ransomware.” Bleeping Computer added the tactics it took are “very unusual.”
The New York Times likened it to a Ponzi scheme, noting "one person entraps another, with malware that holds a computer hostage for payment."
Today Popcorn Time is not a threat, but this type of ransomware is likely to continue, with its inherent maliciousness.
Ransomware growing in number and variety
Ransomware is growing in number of incidents, variety, and sophistication, according to an April report published by software security firm Symantec.
The report noted that ransomware “attackers have honed and perfected the ransomware business model, using strong encryption, anonymous Bitcoin payments, and vast spam campaigns to create dangerous and wider-ranging malware." Symantec added that more attackers are likely to follow suit, with more attacks to come.
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And ransomware typically targets the least technically-knowledgeable segment of the computer-using population: consumers, who are the target of almost 70 percent of the infections, the report said.
The U.S. is particularly vulnerable, according to the report, citing research by the Norton Cyber Security Insight team. While 34 percent of victims will pay the ransom, this rises to 64 percent of victims in the U.S., “[p]roviding some indication as to why the country is so heavily targeted.”