If you've been paying attention, you already know that ransomware is the number one digital threat in the world. The FBI estimates that nearly $1 billion was paid by victims of these attacks in 2016 alone.
Cybercriminals will not be cutting back on ransomware attacks anytime soon. In fact, they have been introducing more devious variants of late that could make the ransomware epidemic more widespread than ever. Now, there's an attack happening that changes the amount of ransom dependent upon your level of wealth.
Fatboy ransomware determines ransom by wealth
What we're talking about is a variant of ransomware called Fatboy. It's a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) and is available for purchase on the Dark Web.
RaaS is a user-friendly type of ransomware that can be deployed by anyone, even if they have very little technical ability. How it works is, an experienced hacker writes the ransomware code and sells it to others for deployment. The hacker who wrote the code is typically paid part of the ransom collected by the criminal who deploys it.
What's unusual about the Fatboy variant is how it determines the amount of ransom to demand. It uses what's known as "The Big Mac" index. This index was invented over 30 years ago by The Economist and uses the price of a McDonald's Big Mac to compare the level of wealth per nation.
People who live in wealthy nations pay more for a Big Mac than those who live in poorer nations when the exchange rate is taken into account. Essentially, the cost of a Big Mac reflects the wealth of a nation. That's how Fatboy ransomware automatically adjusts the amount of ransom a victim pays, with the Big Mac index.
Fatboy is being distributed with phishing emails. If the victim clicks on the malicious link found in the email, their gadget will be infected and the following message will appear:
Image: Example of Fatboy ransomware encrypted files message (Source: Recorded Future)
How to defend against ransomware attacks
In an effort to help people fight ransomware attacks, the FBI suggests taking these steps:
- Back up data regularly - this is the best way to recover your critical data if your computer is infected with ransomware.
- Make sure your backups are secure - do not connect your backups to computers or networks that they are backing up.
- Never open risky links in emails - don't open attachments from unsolicited emails, it could be a phishing scam. Ransomware can infect your gadget through malicious links found in phishing emails. Can you spot one? Take our phishing IQ test to find out.
- Download only trusted software - make sure the software you download comes from trusted sites. If you are going to download an app, make sure it's from Google's Play Store or Apple's App Store. Third-party app stores don't have as many security procedures in place as the official app stores so it's more likely that you'll find malicious apps there.
- Have strong security software - this will help prevent the installation of ransomware on your gadget.
Backing up your critical data is an important safety precaution in the fight against ransomware. We recommend using our sponsor, IDrive. You can backup all your PCs, Macs and mobile devices into ONE account for one low cost! Click here to receive a special discount of 50 percent.