Wed, Jun 10, 2015 - Page 15 News List

High-tech extortion attacks rise in first quarter, report says

Reuters, BERLIN

High-tech extortion schemes nearly doubled in the first three months of the year, while attacks on Adobe Flash software used in streaming media and casual game sites quadrupled, a global report said yesterday.

Intel Corp’s McAfee Labs Threats Report for May found that ransomware surged 165 percent in the first quarter, rebounding from a slight dip last year, when police agencies worldwide staged a coordinated crackdown to knock out a major ransomware network.

Ramsomware is malware that cybercriminals use to seize control of computers and mobile phones when unwitting users click on an infected link or download a tainted document, locking them out of all access to their devices unless they make ransom payments.

The scheme, which first took root in Russia last decade, has spread globally in the past four years. People typically face extortion demands of anywhere from US$150 to US$500 to regain access to the encrypted files.

Newer, “sleeper” versions that seize control of storage drives when data backups are made are on the rise, said Raj Samani, chief technology officer for the company’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

Intel Security found 700,000 samples of ransomware on computers, phones and networks of its customers in the latest quarter, Samani said in an interview.

Ransomware has evolved using “crime as a service” business techniques, in which coders lease out variants of the malware to uncounted thousands of criminals, who use them to launch virtual extortion schemes in return for a cut of the action, he said.

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