Ransomware and scammy tech support sites team up for a vicious one-two punch

One holds your files hostage, the other overcharges to fix nonexistent computer problems

Symantec has seen a curious fusing of two pernicious online threats, which would cause a big headache if encountered by users.

Some websites offering questionable tech support services are also dishing up ransomware, which locks up a users files until they pay a fee to decrypt them.

The support scams involve trying to convince users they have a computer problem and then selling them overpriced software or support services to fix it. It's often done via a pop-up message that urges people to call a number or download software.

Symantec has seen tech support websites also trying to install ransomware in the background. Ransomware is malware that encrypts a computer's files and asks for a payment, often in bitcoin, for the decryption key to be released.

"Unfortunate victims could end up paying both the fake tech support scam for 'help' and the ransom to decrypt their files, " wrote Deepak Singh, an associate threat analyst with Symantec, in a blog post.

On one tech support site seen by Symantec, an iframe hidden on the page redirected to the Nuclear exploit kit, a popular one used to spread malware.

It's unclear if the people running tech supports scams are working with those who create and rent out the use of exploit kits and associated infrastructure. But some tech support scams have experimented with ransomware, Singh wrote.

It's also possible that the tech support websites, like many other websites, have been compromised in order to redirect visitors to exploit kits.

"Regardless, this is the first time we've seen tech support scams running in tandem with the Nuclear exploit kit to deliver ransomware," Singh wrote. "If this proves to be an effective combination, we are likely to see more of this in the future."

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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