Malware is a fact of life when it comes to using computers nowadays. In the past, these pieces of malicious pieces of software were called ‘viruses,’ which is appropriate considering how they spread by ‘infecting’ computers. Nowadays, the term ‘malware’ covers a wide range of programs that can negatively affect the performance of computers. This can range from simply erasing files to completely shutting down the operation of device.
One of the recent developments with malware is the development of Bitcoin ransomware. Ransomware, software that took a person’s computer hostage, has actually been around since the 80s. The first reported piece of ransomware was the AIDS info disk, which encrypted all a computer’s files and kept them locked until the victim sent money to a P.O. Box in Panama.
Ransomware and Bitcoin
The fact that ransomware was difficult to implement was one of the biggest stumbling blocks in its spread. Blackhat hackers had no way to collect the ransom reliably. Even with electronic transactions, it would still be hard to collect without getting caught. That was why Bitcoin became such a hit in ransomware circles. The cryptocurrency is both anonymous and untraceable. When paid in Bitcoin, the person behind a piece of ransomware could be assured of payment without getting caught.
The first piece of Bitcoin ransomware in the wild was Cryptolocker. Making itself known in 2013, Cryptolocker infected over 250,000 computers on its rampage. When it locked down a computer, the program used the Microsoft CryptoAPI, which made decrypting them a very difficult prospect. Payment was demanded in Bitcoin, equivalent to around $300 for each infected device. Cryptolocker’s operators successfully managed to extort over $3 million using this method.
Ransomware has only gotten worse since then. One of the latest developments in ransomware is the release of a ransomware named after Jigsaw, the star of the SAW series of horror films. Once it has infected a computer, Jigsaw does the usual encryption and lockdown of files. The twist is that the malware then notifies the owner of the computer that they will slowly start deleting the files on the device until the owner pays up. It threatens to do this every 24 hours, which increases the intimidation factor of the malware, often making people pay faster. Circumventing the ransomware is even more frightening, as the malware then threatens to delete everything.
Prevention and cure
With threats like malware out there, people should be ready to protect themselves. One of the best ways to do so is for owners to constantly update their computer’s security patches. Software developers like Microsoft have been thorough in patching up vulnerabilities that ransomware could exploit. For example, Microsoft recently released a patch that closed off a lot of the operating system’s security vulnerabilities. Further protection can be achieved with smart computing practices.
As for resolving ransomware issues, security experts are always seeking the best ways to deal with ransomware infections. For instance, the Jigsaw ransomware has already been beaten by experts, with a decrypter available to unlock files. With smart computing and constant vigilance, people can be sure that Bitcoin ransomware cannot become a threat to them.