Ransomware, other Trojans dominate in 2006

Ransomware, or software that takes control of a computer and demands money in exchange for access to files, is one type of Trojan Horse program growing in popularity, according to Sophos' mid-year security report issued on Wednesday.

The existence of Trojans, or malware masquerading as legitimate computer programs, now outnumbers viruses and worms four to one, according to the Sophos report, which is a mid-year update to the company's annual security report released in December of 2005. Ransomware is a new and particularly vexing threat, since it confiscates a user's files and forces payment in exchange for access.

One example of ransomware is Zippo, which was released in March and demands US$300 for users to regain access to their own encrypted files. Another example is Ransom-A, which demands US$10.99 paid through Western Union and threatens to delete a file every 30 minutes until payment is made.

Malware that is targeted at a small group of Internet users and often leads to financial gain is becoming more popular than the mass-mailed worms and viruses of the last few years, says the report. Cyber criminals today are more interested in gaining financially that being able to brag about a virus' proliferation, and avoid using tactics that are sent out to large numbers of users for fear of getting caught, the report says.

E-mail viruses are down to one in every 91 pieces of mail for the first six months of this year, vs. one in every 35 reported for the same period last year.

In the spam world, unsolicited messages that pump up a certain stock were popular in the first half of the year, says the report. In this scam, spammers buy penny stocks and tout the value of the stock through spam, which inflates the stock price so that spammers can sell the stock at a profit. One example occurred in mid-June with a company called Southern Cosmetics, which a spammer touted in a spam blast until the stock's price went up by a factor of six.

In general, the number of threats plaguing Internet users continues to grow; Sophos identified 180,292 different viruses, spyware, worms, Trojans and other malware during the first half of 2006, up from 140,118 during the same period last year, according to the report.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Cara Garretson

Network World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?