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Internet evildoers stitch together vile ransomware-survey scam chimaera

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Internet Igors have fused genomes from two of the web's most noxious scam strains to create a repulsive chimaera.

The new ransomware doing the rounds locks up victims' PCs before forcing their users to complete a survey in order to receive an unlock code.

Traditional ransomware scams typically involving locking up systems before accusing prospective marks of some fictitious crime, from distributing music or films on file-sharing networks to circulating child-abuse images. Victims are typically coerced into coughing up a "fine" of about £100 using untraceable cash vouchers in order to obtain codes to unlock their computers.

Tying things up in survey scams is a new and arguably less ambitious tactic. Survey scams typically involve attempts by dodgy marketing affiliates to trick consumers into completing a survey that offers the "chance" to win an iPad or similar. In reality the ruse is purely designed to harvest personal information. In more extreme cases victims are tricked into handing over their mobile number and signed up for expensive but lame premium rate services, such as daily horoscopes by SMS.

Packaged scams to get victims (referred to as "slaves") to complete online surveys using ransomware have begun appearing in underground cybercrime forums. Webroot has a write-up on one such scam, together with screeenshots, in a blog post here.

The ransomware strain blocks Task Manager, CMD, Regedit and the Start Menu.

"Despite the fact that the ransomware doesn’t pose any sophisticated features ... it [still] provides an example of an efficient business model aiming to utilize cost-per-action (CPA) affiliate networks in an attempt to generate revenue for the market participants," writes malware researcher Dancho Danchev. ®

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