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Security & privacy

Hackers demanding nude photos in latest ransomware scheme

Ransomware isn’t something to be taken lightly. Unless you’re the kind of person who backs everything up several times, a single ransomware attack can leave you with no access to your most important files and documents. In a primarily digital economy, that’s no position anyone wants to be in.

Getting infected by ransomware leaves you with only two options: pay the bribe or lose your files. While some can afford to ditch their files and ignore the ransom, others would rather pay than risk losing anything. Tap or click to see the free tools you need to fight ransomware.

When your files are a priority and you have everything to lose, spending some Bitcoin to get hackers off your back seems like a small price to pay. But what if you can’t afford the cash? Well, some hackers are now accepting nude photos in place of Bitcoin. Wait, what?

Redefining sextortion

Classic ransomware attacks can be devastating, especially when they hit major organizations or centers of business. When the WannaCry ransomware reached England for the first time, multiple hospitals were unable to function thanks to a lock on critical files and systems. Tap or click to see how WannaCry stopped a hospital in its tracks.

For high-profile victims with many people depending on them, paying the ransom can seem like the easy way out. That’s the reason ransomware hackers target places like hospitals and banks in the first place. These victims are likely to pay to get the whole ordeal over with.

But what about ordinary people who get infected with ransomware? Not everyone can afford the bitcoin to unlock their PC, which reduces the financial gains hackers might hope for. What if there were another, more lucrative way to “help” victims unlock their infected computers?

Well, leave it to hackers to be creative. Security researchers at Emsisoft posted a bulletin outlining a new kind of ransomware attack that asks for nude photos as payment instead of money. If your computer gets hit, you’ll be asked to upload images rather than enter your credit card number.

This new breed of ransomware takes a page out of classic sextortion schemes that are already plaguing the inboxes of people all around the world. Tap or click here to see how sextortion scams can turn your computer into a spam bot.

The ransomware appears as a simple dialogue box that asks, in rather vulgar terms, for the user to send topless photos. There’s no option for people without breasts to unlock the files, nor does the dialogue box make any attempt to verify said photos belong to the user.

Because of how vague and non-committal the ransomware appears, we assume the software may have begun as a prank — which has since taken on a life of its own. Tap or click here to see another tasteless prank that went wrong.

What can I do if I’m hit with this ransomware?

It might seem tempting to just send some images and be done with it, but you’re better off not even bothering.

This particular attack uses the “Ransomwared” strain of malware, which tends to encrypt your computer’s files while still allowing you to use it. Thankfully, Emsisoft has developed a decryption tool that can free your files without you actually needing to pay (or send) anything.

You can visit Emsisoft’s downloads page to find the decrypter. Make sure to download the decrypter for the “Ransomwared” strain, which is at the top of the page.

But even if such a tool weren’t available, it’s just not a wise idea to send nude photos to anyone over the web. If you willingly give compromising photos to the hackers responsible for locking your system, what’s stopping them from blackmailing you again in the future?

If anything, you’ll be giving them more ammunition to harm you. Just like how the U.S. government doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, you shouldn’t negotiate with hackers. Doing so is just asking them to come back to try again.

Instead of worrying about what to do in the event of a ransomware attack, the smarter decision is to be proactive and start backing up your files. One of the safest ways to do so is with a secure cloud server like our sponsor IDrive, which Kim trusts for comprehensive data protection.

Save 50% when you sign up at IDrive.com and use promo code Kim at checkout. That’s less than $35 for your first year!

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