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5 Jun 2006

British nurse hackmailed

A Manchester nurse has been hackmailed, possibly the first victim of so-called Ransomware in the UK. A somewhat confusing BBC news report indicates that hackers got onto her PC, encrypted some of her files and then blackmailed her to decrypt them. The article also mentions a virus called Archiveus, which F-secure in fact lists as a Trojan called MayArchive.B. Victims are evidently told to buy pharmaceuticals from a Russian Internet company. Ransomware is also the name of a licensing scheme to raise a certain amount of money from software before releasing it to the Open Source community, so I prefer the term "hackmail".
A blog entry from September 2005 notes variants on the theme, using Distributed Denial of Service for example to extort money from victims. Whereas DDOS attacks have generally targeted online businesses such as gambling companies and, of course, Blue Security, it's possible the nurse story is an example of increasing criminal interest in targeting individual people. Cybercriminals have traditional hacking, malware, social engineering and spam in their toolboxes and identity theft is another lucrative con against individuals. The Internet provides many opportunities for criminals to hide their own identities and launder funds. It's the World's Wild West.
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