Over the past several years we have saw the evolution of bad software that can get on people’s computers. When these things were first created they were mostly malignant and the result of curious people that were just wanting to poke around at the internet.
Over time this type of activity has evolved into crime syndicates using software that will spy on users, send spam email, collect banking credentials and grant bad guys access to computers so that they can use it hack other computers. The more techsavvy of you will recognize these systems as Botnets, Zombie Farms, Zues Banking Trojans and Spambots.
However, we recently experienced a game changer. A new set of software is making criminal upwards of millions of dollars per month in a completely untraceable way. This software is called Lockerware. The pioneer of Lockerware is called Cryptolocker and was first detected in early 2013. It works by using military grade security to scramble the files, documents, pictures and other data on a computer using a key, this is called encryption. It then sends the key off of your computer and will only release the key to undo the damage if a ransom of 300-2000 so dollars is paid using untraceable virtual currency. Users know they have it when they get a popup that says “Your files are encrypted, pay us $1000 in 96 hours or we will delete the key.” A timer then begins to count down to zero. If you pay the random they give you the key and you get your documents back, otherwise they are gone forever unless you had a solid backup in place.
These guys have made a TON of money. An estimated 3% of users pay the ransom and around 12,000 new infections are reported per week ( that would amount to 360,000 dollars at 1000 per paid infection). At hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit per week, it is probably not a surprise that a half dozen variations of Lockerware have been reported. What you wouldn’t expect is that a 23 year old developer has recently released a $100 toolkit that people can buy that includes the code to create Lockerware. Furthermore, the next logical step in the evolution of this type of software will be for the software to be smart enough to spread on its own across the internet. This is the equivalent of some aweful virus like ebola becoming air-borne and WHEN it happens there will be alot of people and companies that lose access to their data.
To prepare for this upcoming evolution in virus software people have a 3 choices going forward. They can Ignore & Cure it or Prevent it.
In my next article I will address steps that the every day computer user can take to prevent Lockerware from getting on their computers.