[Update 16.54GMT: Added additional clarification]
Bitdefender has released a free "crypto-vaccine" which protects users from multiple ransomware families infecting their systems.
Ransomware, a breed of malware which infects systems in order to lock files and squeeze a ransom payment from victims in return for decryption keys, is on the rise.
The consequences of infection can be devastating for users -- as well as core services including hospitals -- and so researchers worldwide are continually trying to develop software which eradicates infection and allows victims to keep their files.
The new tool is designed to protect against well-known ransomware strains CTB-Locker, Locky and TeslaCrypt, all of which target the Microsoft Windows operating system.
CTB-Locker has recently been discovered in a phishing campaign targeting Windows 10 users, Locky often comes in the form of an attached Word document to a malicious email, and TeslaCrypt is ransomware in constant evolution.
A design flaw in TeslaCrypt 2.0 gave researchers the opportunity to generate keys and break the software, but unfortunately, the latest variation, TeslaCrypt 3.0, has patched this design flaw.
A recent study (.PDF) conducted by the cybersecurity firm found that out of over 3000 users in the US, UK and Europe, over half did not know what ransomware was or the damage this malware could do to their systems -- but the same percentage would still be willing to pay up to $500 to retrieve their files if their PCs became infected.
This should always be the last possible option for victims. Not only does paying up keep the cybercrime campaign going and profitable, but there is no guarantee giving into the demand will result in the generation of a decryption key -- just as the recent 'Power Worm' ransomware spread shows.
Catalin Cosoi, Chief Security Strategist at Bitdefender commented:
"The new tool is an outgrowth of the CryptoWall vaccine program. we had been looking at ways to prevent this ransomware from encrypting files, even on computers that were not protected by Bitdefender software, and we realised we could extend the idea to other strains of ransomware."
Bitdefender calls the tool the "last resort" for users keen to keep their systems from such infections. You can download the tool here.
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