Those of us with kids in our homes already know all about Fortnite — the online multiplayer shoot-em-up extravaganza. In just a few short years, the game has exploded in popularity and has helped propel the careers of numerous online celebrities.
At the same time, the game has prompted some much-needed conversation about online gaming, violence in video games and cyberbullying. Not since Pokemon mania back in the 1990s has a franchise reached the hearts of so many kids globally, which unfortunately makes the game a perfect target for cybercriminals and bad actors.
And sure enough, a major threat has been detected that puts millions of players in danger. A special tool designed to give players a competitive edge has turned out to be nothing more than malware in disguise. If your kid uses your devices to play Fortnite, here's what you need to know to keep all your files from being wiped out by hackers.
Fortnite cheaters punished by hackers
Seeking out a competitive edge in multiplayer games isn't anything new, but hackers are taking advantage of the hype behind Fortnite to distribute a particularly nasty form of malware to unsuspecting players.
According to reports from Forbes, a ransomware package disguised as an "aiming tool" has been infecting a number of Fortnite players who download and install the program. Once loaded on a PC, the virus will quickly encrypt files and alert the victim with a ransom note demanding Bitcoin in exchange for unlocking the files.
This isn't the first time that Fortnite players have been targeted by some form of scam or malware. However, this new instance is particularly dangerous because of what it does behind the scenes in addition to normal ransomware behavior.
When executed, the malware (dubbed "Syrk") runs scripts in the background that disable Windows Defender and cripple Task Manager. These programs can normally be run to deal with frozen or rogue programs and without them, the ransomware is free to do as it pleases.
What makes Syrk doubly dangerous is the fact that it's being distributed on ordinary download sites where kids frequent. Any player looking to get one over on their opponents could easily be entrapped by Syrk, and by extension, have their computer locked down and deleted.
For parents with kids who play Fortnite, this means your computer, most likely.
How can I protect my kid? (and my computer too!)
There are a couple of things to be aware of about the Syrk ransomware. First, the source code for the program is something that's been publicly available for a long time, meaning there are some remedies available from anti-malware platforms. Hilariously, however, you might not even need to download this (or pay the ransom, for that matter).
A close investigation of the Syrk download file revealed a program was included with Syrk that actually decrypts all the files. Additionally, the password you'd get from paying the ransom is also stored right on your computer and can be found with a little bit of snooping. There's even a file included in the download that deletes all of the malware files altogether!
The fact that hackers include ways for a user to remove their own malware gives reason to suspect that Syrk is more of a practical joke than a virus pandemic. Gamers are notoriously protective of their hobby and in highly competitive games, cheating is frequently discouraged. Perhaps the hackers behind Syrk were looking to punish cheaters more than anything else.
To keep your kids safe from Syrk, the best thing you can do is advise them on the importance of fair play and discourage them from downloading any items that can help them cheat in Fortnite.
Additionally, it's never a bad time to introduce them to our Komando.com tech safety contract for kids and parents, which can help establish safe internet practices and behaviors.
The sooner you get kids in-the-know about cybersecurity, the safer their digital activities will be. And that, more than anything, will protect the computers in your home from their misadventures.
New! Tech safety contract for kids (free download)
Your children grew up alongside technology, and kids are always connected. A digital life also comes with dangers, from scammers to child predators. That's why Kim created this technology contract that acts as an agreement between you and your children, so you'll always be in-the-know about their online activities to keep them safe.