New Cybercrime Tool: Ransomware Kits

27 December 2012

It doesn’t required advanced computer programming skills to enter the world of cybercriminal activity. Ransomware kits are a new malware tool that allows criminals without programming skills to target victims and extort payments. And it’s relatively easy to track these kits down — they are already being marketed underground for Windows-based systems.

Ransomware is a piece of malware that hijacks the victim’s ability to access data, communicate, or use their system at all. One way ransomware is different from other types of malware — such as backdoors, keyloggers, and password stealers — is that attackers do not rely on their victims using the infected systems for financial transactions. Instead these criminals essentially hold a system hostage. The victims are faced with either losing their data or paying a ransom in the hope of regaining access.

Windows Threats Spread
Ransomware is a fast-growing criminal enterprise, especially on PCs. Infections on Windows PCs more than tripled during 2012 alone. The large amount of Windows-based malware owes its existence to the easy availability of these ready-to-go malware kits in the underground market. In 2013, ransomware kits will most likely take the lead from malware kits as the most popular turnkey kits.

Mobile Ransomware Poised to Grow
Attackers have already developed ransomware aimed at holding mobile devices hostage. Although most malware authors do not target mobile devices because more users transact business on desktop PCs, making those systems more indispensable to users, this is changing. McAfee Labs researchers anticipate that the convenience of portable browsers will lead to more people making transactions on the go and keeping valuable data on a device — and those smartphones and tablets will be an even more critical tool to users. As mobile device use continues to rise exponentially, and as businesses rely on mobile devices as a core part of day-to-day operations, mobile ransomware is expected to increase considerably in 2013.