PC users warned of child porn ransomware risk

News 6 Feb, 2013

Trojan displays images of child abuse, demanding €100 to unlock computer

PC users are being warned about a new type of ransomware that uses child pornography images to get users to pay for their computers to be unlocked.

The Trojan is downloaded onto computers after people visit a website used by criminal gangs as an infection vector.

It then displays a pop-up claiming to be from the German Federal Office for Information Security and the Society for Prosecution of Copyright Infringement, which accuses the user of participating in illegal activity.

Victims are trapped in a difficult position. Pay the ransom or risk their reputation by seeking help.

The Trojan also displays images of child abuse, which it accuses the user of viewing.

Adam Kujawa, malware intelligence researcher at Malwarebytes, told IT Pro: “This proves that Ransomware is going to the extremes as it continues to evolve.

“This latest variation, using child pornography, is especially potent...victims are trapped in a difficult position; pay the ransom or risk their personal and professional reputations by seeking help from IT professionals or local authorities.”

The Federal Criminal Police Office has warned the public not to pay up.

“Do not be intimidated into paying by the photo and the statement that ‘child pornography has been found on your computer’. It is a form of digital extortion. You are the victim of a crime,” it added.

The German police’s comments have been backed up by the Metropolitan Police.

“This is fraud and users are advised not to pay out any monies or hand out any bank details. Genuine law enforcement agencies would never contact members of the public via email and demand funds in this way,” a spokesperson told IT Pro.

While this seems to be the first time child pornography has been used in ransomware, Christian Berg, CEO of NetClean, which specialises in detecting and blocking abuse images, does not think it will be the last.

“It is probably quite effective in extorting money and so I do not think it is a one off. It could be images of child abuse used as blackmail, or it could be claiming to have logged the user’s web browsing history and threatening to publish it to Facebook – there are many types of blackmailing scenarios we could see,” he told IT Pro.

Anyone who has received this type of message and handed over money should contact their local police by dialling 101 or the local non-emergency number, as well as contacting their card issuer. Infections where no money has been lost can be logged at www.actionfraud.org.uk/report_fraud.