Cybercriminals are extorting money from victims by infecting their computers with "ransomware," a type of malware that renders the devices unusable. The most recent wave of hacker attacks, called "police ransomware," sends messages that appear to be from a law enforcement agency to victims accusing them of visiting illegal websites and locks their computers. To have the computer restored, a victim must pay the cybercriminals to unlock the device. Although many victims make the payment, many times their systems are not restored — and ransomware often leaves other malware on the victim's computer.
In recent attacks, cybercriminals have taken blackmail to even greater lengths — holding data stolen from victims' computers or databases hostage. Here are four examples targeting businesses and high-profile individuals:
In the CreditPret, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Webassur cases, personal customer data was posted on the Internet because the victims did not meet the blackmailers' demands. Many victims of this type of attack have been unwilling to make ransom payments because there is no guarantee of definitively retrieving the data without the risk of recurring blackmail. This was the case for TDC Refrigeration — despite making the payment, the company's computer systems were not restored. This is one of many reasons authorities warn victims not to respond to blackmail threats.