Friday, September 09, 2005

A new form of computer virus

More than likely you haven't heard of ransomware. I consider myself very knowledgeable of software, computers and related technology; however, it was only a passing mention in a home audio/video magazine that made me aware of this new virus technology.

You'll be hard-pressed to find mainstream media coverage of ransomware. However, there are a few instances from earlier this year of computers falling prey to the malicious code. A May 2005 incident is the main source of information.

Websense of San Diego assisted a client whose computers had been locked until a $200 ransom was paid for the digital keys. The program - a type of Trojan called Pgpcoder - manipulates a browser weakness to access and and search "the victim’s hard drive for 15 common file types to encode, including Word, Excel documents and stored web pages ... A note then appears on the victim’s screen demanding money for the decoder, with details of an electronic account and a contact email address."

Another type of ransomware was discussed in 2004 as a more evil alternative to malware.

As discussed on Halfbakery.com, "Assuming that 1 GB of hard disk space cost $ 30, a piece of software costing $ 15 will blow up in size to take up additional half a GB. Once payment is received, the half a GB of space is released. The dollar amount is for illustrative purpose. 'Ransom' is just an analogy. The concept can be applied to mean 'less-than-optimal-performance-ware' or 'if-you-pay-i-give-secret-key-to-unleash-bonus-and-hidden-and-kidnapped-functionality-ware'"

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