Ransomware threatens victims with police reports for child pornography

New malware encrypts files and threatens to file false police reports, Sophos researchers say

Cybercriminals are using a new piece of malware to extort money from their victims by encrypting their files and threatening to alert authorities about child pornography being stored on their computers, according to security researchers from antivirus firm Sophos.

The malicious application, detected by Sophos products as Troj/Ransom-HC, falls into a category of malware called ransomware. As the name suggests, ransomware applications hold computers, or the files stored on them, to ransom.

Troj/Ransom-HC encrypts the files stored on infected computers, allegedly using the strong 256-bit AES cipher, and asks their owners to pay 3,000 euros -- around US$3,800 -- in order to receive a decryption key.

"Users whose computers are hit by the malware are told to respond with a unique ID number to a Gmail or Live webmail address for the password that will unlock their data," Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley said Wednesday in a blog post.

However, the cybercriminals behind this particular strain of ransomware take their extortion attempt even further and threaten victims that they will file a police report and provide authorities with a special password that can decrypt files containing spam software and child pornography.

"There may be nothing in the hackers' threat of contacting the police and making accusations of child abuse material on your computer, but you can just imagine how petrified many people might be by seeing such a message," Cluley said.

There have been cases in the past of people successfully proving that child pornography images found on their computers were the result of malware infections. However, the mere accusation of possessing such material can damage one's reputation and social life, often irreparably.

"Of course, we don't recommend paying money to ransomware extortionists,"Cluley said. "There's nothing to say that they won't simply raise their ransom demands even higher once they discover you are prepared to pay up,"

The best solution for users to protect themselves from ransomware threats is to regularly back up their data, install all security patches for their software and keep their antivirus up to date, Cluley said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

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.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

Bitdefender solutions stop attacks before they even begin! Get cybersecurity that 500 MILLION users already have and trust.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

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?