Rising Bitcoin prices force Cryptolocker ransomware scammers to drop asking price

Rising Bitcoin prices force Cryptolocker ransomware scammers to drop asking price

Summary: Bitcoin's wild fluctuations have forced a price update to the Cryptolocker ransomware.

TOPICS: Security, Malware

With the price of Bitcoin reaching a high of $900 earlier this week, scammers using the currency to accept payments from victims have dropped their rates.

For anyone that hasn't heard about Cryptolocker, it's the latest, nasty twist on ransomware, which uses a blend of RSA and AES encryption to lockdown files on infected machines. Victims find they can no longer access the files on their PCs, and are given three days to pay up and get their machines back, or face demands for larger payments.

The scammers behind the Cryptolocker scam have been asking for around $300 before they supply the victim with a decryption key that will release their files and, as well as Bitcions, are now even accommodating alternative payment methods: vouchers from MoneyPak, UKash, CashU, or Bitcoins.

The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) sees the threat as serious enough to have issued an alert on the subject, warning that the malware may be being sent out to tens of millions of people in the UK. The FBI has also issued warnings, as has Microsoft.

Until this week, the scam — running since at least September — had been asking for two Bitcoins as the ransom, which originally equated to around $300. By early November though, the price of one Bitcoin had risen to $300. As the UK's NCA notes in its alert, two Bitcoins on 15 November would have been worth £536 ($868). This week, the price of just one Bitcoin floated above $900, before falling to around $700 today.

But would victims really pay $1,400 to get their files back? Presumanly to ensure Bitcoins remain a viable payment option, the ransomware scammers have now adjusted their rate for the digital currency.

A sample of the malware on 20 November picked up by Sean Sullivan, a security researcher at Finnish security firm F-Secure, shows that the ransomware scammers are now asking for 0.5 Bitcoins — roughly back to the $300 level price they had asked for originally.

Further reading

2013-11-22 01.50.20 pm
Cryptolocker payment page. Image: F-Secure.

Topics: Security, Malware

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Surely

    the NSA knows who is behind this ....
  • Well at least they are doing right by their victims

    So very noble of them.
    Michael Kelly
  • ransomware

    What do I need to do to protect myself from ransome ware? I have AVG and spybot on my system and run malwarenbyets once a month. I have machines with various Win X OS
    • Spot on

      They should be telling you more about avoiding!

      At the end of the day it's an .exe that is most commonly sent via emails using social engineering to make you click.

      Additionally it can be strapped to a bot or kit so best also disable java and flash in your browsers (dah)

      As for antivirus something like bitdefender or norton are far better - free solutions tend to be cut back on important features like email scanning, fire walls, real time protection, scanning of downloads, programs attempting to run, etc.

      The trick to antivirus is to never renew your subscription or purchase online - go down pc world and one of them is always half price
  • Cryptolocker ransomware solution....

    backup your files. keep a back up; do it like once a week. as long as you have a back up, you're better off, than others, but still a target, not good.

  • UGH

    Remember when the worst thing that could happen was a pop-up storm. this is the reason i have no-script running, and why my important files are backed up to usb flash drives. that said we should find the extortioners, and beat them till the candy comes out.
  • Everyone that argues for why Bitcoins are so fantastic

    usually start off with "they are anonymous forms of payments not controlled or tracked by the big bad governments".

    Guess that's a good thing here, right....?
  • It's a steep price to pay

    It's better to back up your stuff
    I don't have much sympathy for those who don't
    There are lots of other ways to lose those photos