Ransomware hackers have added a new weapon to their terrifying arsenal: threatening to publish your personal files on the internet if you don’t pay up.
Since it began to take root as far back as 1989, “ransomware” has followed a predictable pattern. Someone infects your computer with malware that encrypts all your files, and then you pay to get them decrypted.
If you are hit with a ransomware attack, there’s often not much you can do about it. Even the FBI has advised companies to consider just giving the criminals what they want.
“The ransomware is that good,” according to Joseph Bonavolonta, an agent with the FBI.
But now hackers have devised another wrinkle in the scheme: the threat of exposing your private digital life for all to see.
The trend has been spotted in a malware program called “Chimera,” according to Computerworld.
Here’s how Chimera works.
First, the hacker sends you a random email that tries to entice you to click on a link to Dropbox. If you fall for the trap, Chimera starts encrypting all the files on your computer. When your computer reboots, it shows you a ransom note. According to Computerworld, attackers usually demand payment of about $685 in Bitcoin in exchange for the decryption key.
This would usually be the end of the hack, but some attackers have added a new threat, saying they’ll publish your files on the internet if you don’t give them the Bitcoin in a timely fashion.
According to the German Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre, there isn’t yet any evidence that anyone’s personal files have been dumped on the internet in this manner. Right now it’s just threats. And it’s unclear whether doing so would place too much of a burden on the hackers from a storage space standpoint.
But for anyone who has embarrassing or sensitive files on their computer, the potential of having them posted on the internet could be worse than that of losing them forever.