Back to the future – Ransomware returns

Viruses have been with us for so long that most people have forgotten some of the memorable ones. An alert I saw this morning related to a worrying trend of machines being locked by virus with money in terms of a credit card payment being the only means to get unlocked. Now this is worrying because if this phenomenon is allowed to thrive – even a little – then all hell will break loose with every Tom, Dick and Harry virus hacker sending out ransom bots.

So the authorities need to come down on the perpetrators like the proverbial ton of bricks and leave the virus writers and peddlers with no doubt – thus far and no farther.

This takes me back to one of the first brushes with a virus that I encountered. I had gone on a training course in London – only to receive a call to the hotel where I was staying to tell me my machine had been infected by a floppy disk that had arrived. You can tell by the floppy disk as vector that this was so long ago that mobile phones were not common.

The screen displayed a ransom demand and requested payment to be sent to an address in Panama. The police and authorities were all over the guy – Dr Joseph Popp who ran the extortion claiming the money raised would go to Aids research. The same Dr Popp (yes a medical doctor) put up an insanity defense and appeared in court wearing hair curlers and a condom on his nose (if I recall correctly). The case was stopped and he was sent back to the US. The virus was quickly decoded and unlocked.

The lesson is clear – forget the acting and showboating that Popp put  up and make the cases – that are bound to come – stick. Otherwise we face a return to the bad old days of the 90`s when every week brought a new virus threat – because with a financial reward to back up the effort – virus writers and criminal gangs will use every thing in their arsenal to get a hold of your machine and your cash.

So make sure you have a  robust antivirus and antimalware strategy in place – train your staff (and your friends) not to fall for the scams – and tell your politicians to get themselves clued up on this threat and leave no hiding places for the writers of this malware.