The latest ransomware is pure evil genius

Popcorn Time ransomware melds social engineering with technology to spread itself faster than ever

The latest ransomware, Popcorn Time, is pure evil genius
Dbreen via Pixabay

Ransomware is always nasty business, but the latest variant discovered by the MalwareHunterTeam takes the nastiness to a whole ‘nother level.

Turning victims into criminals

Apparently, the latest Popcorn Time ransomware adds a new twist to the standard M.O. of demanding payment from their victims or permanently lose access to their files. In what seems like a brilliant if seriously messed up maneuver, if victims don’t want to pay the Bitcoin ransom “the fast and easy way,” the program gives victims the option of paying up “the nasty way”—by sending the ransomware link on to others. 

“If two or more people will install this file and pay, we will decrypt your files for free,” the ransomware authors promise. 

Wow. That is some sick stuff. Turning victims into criminals by preying on them when they’re at their most vulnerable and desperate may be even slimier than the ransomware attack itself. 

Worse, it may be more effective, too. 

While the original Popcorn Time ransomware (not connected to the Popcorn Time streaming video apps) has to persuade strangers to download and install the ransomware. That isn’t always easy. But imagine if a friend sent you a file or program to download, explaining why it would be of particular interest to you, there’s a much higher likelihood of infection, don’t you think? 

What happens afterward? 

Of course, not many friendships could survive one party knowingly sending the other ransomware, and the Popcorn Time variant doesn’t seem to offer any advice on how to conceal such a dastardly deed after the fact. 

And that raises another scenario: Perhaps the people victims target wouldn’t be friends at all! Perhaps they’d more likely be enemies or competitors. The possibilities are endless—and terrifying. 

Imagine a world where every link or file you get from anyone could be dangerous malware. Sure, we already live in a world where messages pretending to come from friends and acquaintances could be compromised, but this is much, much worse. It’s not just deception; it’s pure evil. 

In addition to the havoc sown by the ransomware itself, having it spread by victims could lead to a ongoing erosion of online trust and empathy—factors already in short supply.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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