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Home » Hacking News » Computer files hostage

Computer files hostage

by Nikola Strahija on May 25th, 2005 Hackers have recently found a way to lock up electronic documents and then demand money to get them back. Security researchers at San Diego-based Websense Inc. uncovered the unusual extortion plot when a corporate customer fell victim to the infection, which encrypted files that included documents, photographs and spreadsheets.

A ransom note left behind included an e-mail address, and the attacker later demanded $200 for the digital keys to unlock the files.

The FBI said the scheme, which appears isolated, was unlike other Internet extortion crimes. Leading security and antivirus firms this week were updating protective software for companies and consumers to guard against this type of attack.

The researchers managed to unlock the infected computer files without paying the extortion, but they worries that improved versions might be more difficult to overcome.

The latest danger adds to the risks facing beleaguered Internet users, who must increasingly deal with categories of threats that include spyware, viruses, worms, phishing e-mail fraud and denial of service attacks.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said more familiar Internet extortion schemes involve hackers demanding tens of thousands of dollars and threatening to attack commercial websites, interfering with sales or stealing customer data.

Experts said there were no reports the new threat was spreading, and the website was already shut down where the infection originally spread. They also said the hacker's demand for payment might be his weakness, since bank transactions can be traced easily.

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