Feeds

File-NUKING Cryptolocker PC malware MENACES 'TENS of MILLIONS' in UK

Back up before devil PC malware demands 860 BUCKS (530 quid)

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

The infamous Cryptolocker malware, which encrypts your computer files and demands a payment of £534 ($860) to unlock them, may have been sent to "tens of millions" of Brits, Blighty's crime-busters warned today.

According to an alert from the UK National Crime Agency (NCA), a fresh round of ransomware-loaded spam posing as bank notices has been sent out, with small and medium-sized businesses targeted in particular. The messages, described as a "significant risk", carry booby-trapped attachments and claim to be official documents from financial institutions.

Lurking within the attachments is a Trojan called Cryptolocker that, when executed, silently installs itself and quietly begins encrypting documents one by one on the Windows PC using tough-as-nails AES256. When it's finished, it demands a ransom payment of 2 Bitcoins (at least 500 quid or 800 bucks) to decrypt the data, which must be paid within a time limit.

The software nasty is particularly fiendish: The malware first contacts its master's control server, which generates a new public-private 2048-bit RSA cryptographic key pair and sends the public half to the malware.

Then for every file discovered on the computer, Cryptolocker generates a new 256-bit key and uses it to encrypt that document using the virtually unbreakable AES256 algorithm. That AES key is then encrypted using the RSA public key and stored with the obfuscated document.

Only when the victim pays up does the Trojan download the private half of the RSA key, which is used to decrypt the per-file AES keys and ultimately restore all the protected documents. Targeted files include anything with .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx, .dwg, .dxf, .dxg and .jpg extensions and plenty more.

Users are urged to maintain regular backups of their data, kept separate from their computers, as the encryption is essentially uncrackable, and consider using tools to thwart the software nasty. The Trojan infects systems running Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, and XP.

"The emails may be sent out to tens of millions of UK customers, but appear to be targeting small and medium businesses in particular," the UK's NCA said.

"This spamming event is assessed as a significant risk."

Cryptolocker's operators are also apparently developing a keen sense of economic opportunism, upping their Bitcoin demands at a time when the digital currency's exchange rate has never been higher.

While authorities have yet to finger any suspects behind the Cryptolocker epidemic, the NCA believes the operation is the work of a tech-savvy crime ring.

"The NCA are actively pursuing organized crime groups committing this type of crime," said Les Miles, deputy head of the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit.

"We are working in cooperation with industry and international partners to identify and bring to justice those responsible and reduce the risk to the public."

In addition to installing and updating trusted security software, users and administrators can protect against infections by using best practices (read: common sense) such as avoiding links and attachments from unknown or suspicious sources and scanning all attached files for malware. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Hackers thrash Bash Shellshock bug: World races to cover hole
Update your gear now to avoid early attacks hitting the web
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.