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The threat of being infected by malicious software is part and parcel of spending time on the internet, and no sooner have the antivirus and security software programs released an update or new patch than cyber criminals are scrambling for ways to circumvent them. In addition, as end users become savvier to the tricks and scams used to steal our data, money or identities, new tactics are employed to try and fool us. And that includes Chimera, a new strain of ransomware which has recently been uncovered.
Business is booming in the world of cyber crime, and scammers, extortionists, phishers and hackers are constantly on the lookout for new ways to exploit our fears and naivety in order to boost their bank accounts, steal our data, or simply cause us mayhem for their own twisted pleasure. One of worst types of malware for playing with our emotions – and therefore increasing the likelihood of us capitulating to its demands – is ransomware. If you don’t know how this program works, read on for an introduction.
If your computer has been infected by ransomware, the first sign that something is wrong is normally discovering that you are unable to open one or more of your files. That’s because the malware encrypts them, rendering them completely inaccessible. The next thing you see will be a ‘ransom note’, either in the form of an email or a notice that appears directly on your screen. You will be told that if you want to see your files again you will need to pay a sum of money. After making payment you will (allegedly) be sent a code that will allow you to decrypt your files.
Some types of ransomware up the fear factor even further by pretending that the FBI, CIA or other national law enforcement or government agency is behind the ‘kidnapping’. You will be told that your files are being held hostage because you have downloaded pirated software or files, or visited an illegal or illicit website – such as those depicting extreme pornography or threatening national security. Regardless of whether or not you are guilty of any of the above – be it a visit to an x-rated website, or downloading a pirated copy of the latest episode of The Walking Dead, your first instinct is probably to panic. The thought of no longer having access to any of our information, files or data is enough to make most of us break out into a cold sweat. If you haven’t backed up, everything from your vacation pictures to your company’s data could be lost for good.
The problem for ransomware creators, however, is that many users have wisened up to their tactics, and are refusing to pay, instead calling in an IT specialist to try and restore their encrypted files. This has left cyber criminals needing to find a way to boost ‘trade’. And that is where Chimera comes in. Christened by the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre – a part of Germany’s Association of the Internet Industry – unlike previous forms of ransomware, which were indiscriminate when choosing their victims, this latest threat primarily targets businesses.
An employee will receive an email, purporting to be an application for a job within your firm, or some kind of corporate deal. This email will include a link ostensibly to the applicant’s resume or to details of the offer, but will in fact go to an infected file stored in Dropbox. Chimera then infects the user’s computer and encrypts any local files. Once the PC has been rebooted, the ransom note will be displayed on the desktop. Payment is usually set at around $680 USD, which must be paid in Bitcoins. And in order to further scare the victim into paying, the note will also state that failure to make payment will result in the user’s files being published online.
If there is a slight silver lining to the Chimera cloud, it is that the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre has not found any proof that files have been published – at least not yet. In fact, it is still unknown whether the ransomware does actually take the encrypted files or if it is just an empty threat. Regardless, it is still a threat which could easily convince many users to pay the ransom. And should Chimera make good on its threats, the ramifications for a business are huge – and that’s without taking into consideration the nightmare of having your files encrypted in the first place. With Chimera targeting businesses of all sizes, and random employees within the business at that, isn’t it time you took another good look at your organization’s security posture?
Contact us today and talk to one of our security experts. We’ll be more than happy to help ensure that your small or medium-sized business isn’t taken hostage by Chimera or any other type of ransomware.
Published on 29th December 2015 by Jeanne DeWitt.