Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigations issued an alert to warn users about the presence of the now-infamous Reveton Ransomware, a malicious element that locks up the computers of unsuspecting internauts and keeps them that way until they pay up.
It’s clear that users must do everything they can to avoid falling for such plots, but how do they actually work? How do cybercriminals earn a profit?
ESET experts have made a simple graphic to show how they work. First, Bad Guy 1 purchases the exploit from Bad Guy 2, which he uses to develop a piece of malware that’s capable of locking up a computer.
But, as it turns out, it takes more than two bad guys
to make such a sophisticated scam work. Bad Guy 1 pays Bad Guy 3 and Bad Guy 4 to test his creation, respectively install it on a website from where it would spread to the victims’ devices.
Moreover, this stage doesn’t have only one good guy
, or one victim. The website on which the malware is installed is usually forcefully taken over from Good Guy B, in most cases without his knowledge.
So, when Good Guy A visits Good Guy B’s website he ends up with the ransomware on his computer. Since many good guys chose to pay up to have their machines unlocked, instead of reporting it to the police and calling in a specialist, the cybercriminals earn large amounts of money.
According to some research
performed by security journalist Brian Krebs, the crooks can earn as much as $50,000 (€40,000) per day.
Of course, if they would request victims to wire all this money to a bank account, the loot could be traced to them. This is why the fraudsters rely on systems such as Ukash, Paysafe and MoneyPak.
MoneyPak, for instance, is a service designed for individuals who don’t have bank accounts. Customers simply charge their MoneyPak accounts, and make purchases and transfers directly or via PayPal.
As expected, the company can’t be held responsible if their clients send money to cybercriminals.
Fortunately, the FBI is currently working on identifying and apprehending the individuals who run such schemes, and hopefully they’ll succeed.