Matthew Green and students speculate on what truly well-designed ransomware system could look like:
Most modern ransomware employs a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin to enable the payments that make the ransom possible. This is perhaps not the strongest argument for systems like Bitcoin — and yet it seems unlikely that Bitcoin is going away anytime soon. If we can’t solve the problem of Bitcoin, maybe it’s possible to use Bitcoin to make “more reliable” ransomware.
Recall that in the final step of the ransom process, the ransomware operator must deliver a decryption key to the victim. This step is the most fraught for operators, since it requires them to manage keys and respond to queries on the Internet. Wouldn’t it be better for operators if they could eliminate this step altogether?
At least in theory it might be possible to develop a DAO that’s funded entirely by ransomware payments — and in turn mindlessly contracts real human beings to develop better ransomware, deploy it against human targets, and…rinse repeat. It’s unlikely that such a system would be stable in the long run humans are clever and good at destroying dumb things but it might get a good run.
One of the reasons society hasn’t destroyed itself is that people with intelligence and skills tend to not be criminals for a living. If it ever became a viable career path, we’re doomed.
Posted on March 7, 2017 at 8:15 AM •
Attackers held an Austrian hotel network for ransom, demanding $1,800 in bitcoin to unlock the network. Among other things, the locked network wouldn’t allow any of the guests to open their hotel room doors.
I expect IoT ransomware to become a major area of crime in the next few years. How long before we see this tactic used against cars? Against home thermostats? Within the year is my guess. And as long as the ransom price isn’t too onerous, people will pay.
EDITED TO ADD: There seems to be a lot of confusion about exactly what the ransomware did. Early reports said that hotel guests were locked inside their rooms, which is of course ridiculous. Now some reports are saying that no one was locked out of their rooms.
EDITED TO ADD (2/13): More information.
Posted on January 31, 2017 at 8:49 AM •
A new ransomware, Popcorn Time, gives users the option of infecting others in lieu of paying the ransom.
Related: a good general article on ransomware.
EDITED TO ADD: Slashdot thread.
Posted on December 12, 2016 at 6:51 AM •
It’s really bad. The ticket machines were hacked.
Over the next couple of years, I believe we are going to see the downside of our headlong rush to put everything on the Internet.
EDITED TO ADD (12/12): More from Brian Krebs.
Posted on November 28, 2016 at 5:36 PM •
Some of the tricks that ransomware is using to get victims to pay up.
Posted on November 11, 2015 at 6:44 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.