A helping hand with a dirty trick: Ransomware now offers helpdesk to victims

IT helpdesk

Ransomware is making a lot of money for cybercriminals, and that shows in the increasing sophistication which these blackmailing crooks are operating with – to the point where now they're even producing FAQs and offering 'customer' service support to help victims pay up.

You only need look at an attack which was carried out on the authorities in Tewksbury Massachusetts over in the US. The ransomware was followed up by a full FAQ explaining details of the attack and simple to follow instructions concerning how to make the online payment in order to decrypt the files.

Reuters reports that in the end the Tewksbury police department decided they would pay the fee of $600 (around £420, AU$780) demanded, as efforts to break the stranglehold on its files had proved fruitless despite bringing in experts, and the ongoing hassle and ultimate danger of losing vital data was a far more traumatic prospect than simply stumping up the ransom.

And of course that's exactly what the thieves count on.

Lawbreakers learn from legit businesses

Ransomware peddlers are increasingly aping legitimate businesses with efforts on the customer service front such as those revealed in this incident, and even small operators are now making moves like setting up their own call centres offering tech support to victims whether they are individuals or companies (yes, it's all very twisted).

And as Reuters notes, the sophistication of ransomware operations has got to the level where the likes of graphic artists and translators are employed to ensure demands are as clearly presented as possible, and in the local language.

It's all getting quite scary and on top of this, the prospect of automated and self-propagating ransomware (cryptoworms) looms, meaning we're likely to see an increasing amount of attacks in the future, particularly given the sort of money being made by these criminals.

As we saw yesterday with Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report, ransomware is already increasing at quite a pace and it was up 35% in 2015 according to the security firm.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).