Russian ransomware SMS smut-scam raised $30k

And 'penis' is Russian for what?


A ransomware-based malware scam allowed Russian cybercrooks to fleece an estimated 2,500 surfers to the tune of almost $30k.

Unwary smut-seekers visiting a porno site found their machines disabled by a Trojan. They were told to solve the problem by sending an SMS to a premium-rate number at a cost of $12 (360 roubles), and a substantial minority did so.

Surfers might have protected themselves by regularly backing up important data, using anti-virus defences or (perhaps best of all) avoiding the temptation to trawl the web's lower depths.

Such ransomware campaigns crop up periodically, often in Russia. However, an analysis by Trend Micro, published on Wednesday, is the first we've come across to put a figure on the number of victims or profits from this type of illicit activity.

The malware strain associated with the scam, identified by Trend as the Rixobot-A worm, was apparently downloaded for one location more than 137,000 times in December 2010 alone. The security firm was able to get into a website database used by the crooks to chart the success of their campaign, in particular its "conversion rate" between malware click through rates and revenues.

The scam brought in almost $30K - US$29,435 or 901,245 RUR - in revenues in just five weeks.

"In our research, we were able to access a panel that was used to keep track of the specific income generated by at least 60 phone numbers used in ransomware campaigns," writes Nart Villeneuve, a senior threat researcher at Trend Micro.

"The list contains 60 phone numbers displayed by the ransomware and used to receive funds from victims."

"Based on our findings, this campaign was able to generate 901,245 RUR (US$29,435) over the last five weeks. With a payment of approximately US$12 per transaction, this indicates that 2,500 people paid the ransom. Users are thus advised to be more wary about their online activities."

Trend Micro's write-up of the scam, containing screenshots of the control panel and a screenshot from an infected machine, can be found here. ®

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Emotet malware gang re-emerges with Chrome-based credit card heistware
    Crimeware groups are re-inventing themselves

    The criminals behind the Emotet botnet – which rose to fame as a banking trojan before evolving into spamming and malware delivery – are now using it to target credit card information stored in the Chrome web browser.

    Once the data – including the user's name, the card's numbers and expiration information – is exfiltrated, the malware will send it to command-and-control (C2) servers that are different than the one that the card stealer module uses, according to researchers with cybersecurity vendor Proofpoint's Threat Insight team.

    The new card information module is the latest illustration of Emotet's Lazarus-like return. It's been more than a year since Europol and law enforcement from countries including the United States, the UK and Ukraine tore down the Emotet actors' infrastructure in January 2021 and – they hoped – put the malware threat to rest.

    Continue reading
  • Super-spreader FluBot squashed by Europol
    Your package is delayed. Click this innocent-looking link to reschedule

    FluBot, the super-spreader Android malware that infected tens of thousands of phones globally, has been reportedly squashed by an international law enforcement operation.

    In May, Dutch police disrupted the mobile malware's infrastructure, disconnecting thousands of victims' devices from the FluBot network and preventing more than 6.5 million spam text messages propagating the bot from reaching potential victims, according to Finland's National Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday.

    The takedown followed a Europol-led investigation that involved law enforcement agencies from Australia, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the US. 

    Continue reading
  • HelloXD ransomware bulked up with better encryption, nastier payload
    Russian-based group doubles the extortion by exfiltrating the corporate data before encrypting it.

    Windows and Linux systems are coming under attack by new variants of the HelloXD ransomware that includes stronger encryption, improved obfuscation and an additional payload that enables threat groups to modify compromised systems, exfiltrate files and execute commands.

    The new capabilities make the ransomware, first detected in November 2021 - and the developer behind it even more dangerous - according to researchers with Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 threat intelligence group. Unit 42 said the HelloXD ransomware family is in its initial stages but it's working to track down the author.

    "While the ransomware functionality is nothing new, during our research, following the lines, we found out the ransomware is most likely developed by a threat actor named x4k," the researchers wrote in a blog post.

    Continue reading
  • Now Windows Follina zero-day exploited to infect PCs with Qbot
    Data-stealing malware also paired with Black Basta ransomware gang

    Miscreants are reportedly exploiting the recently disclosed critical Windows Follina zero-day flaw to infect PCs with Qbot, thus aggressively expanding their reach.

    The bot's operators are also working with the Black Basta gang to spread ransomware in yet another partnership in the underground world of cyber-crime, it is claimed.

    This combination of Follina exploitation and its use to extort organizations makes the malware an even larger threat for enterprises. Qbot started off as a software nasty that raided people's online bank accounts, and evolved to snoop on user keystrokes and steal sensitive information from machines. It can also deliver other malware payloads, such as backdoors and ransomware, onto infected Windows systems, and forms a remote-controllable botnet.

    Continue reading
  • Symantec: More malware operators moving in to exploit Follina
    Meanwhile Microsoft still hasn't patched the fatal flaw

    While enterprises are still waiting for Microsoft to issue a fix for the critical "Follina" vulnerability in Windows, yet more malware operators are moving in to exploit it.

    Microsoft late last month acknowledged the remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability – tracked as CVE-2022-30190 – but has yet to deliver a patch for it. The company has outlined workarounds that can be used until a fix becomes available.

    In the meantime, reports of active exploits of the flaw continue to surface. Analysts with Proofpoint's Threat Insight team earlier this month tweeted about a phishing campaign, possibly aligned with a nation-state targeting US and European Union agencies, which uses Follina. The Proofpoint researchers said the malicious spam messages were sent to fewer than 10 Proofpoint product users.

    Continue reading
  • Europol arrests nine suspected of stealing 'several million' euros via phishing
    Victims lured into handing over online banking logins, police say

    Europol cops have arrested nine suspected members of a cybercrime ring involved in phishing, internet scams, and money laundering.

    The alleged crooks are believed to have stolen "several million euros" from at least "dozens of Belgian victims," according to that nation's police, which, along with the Dutch, supported the cross-border operation.

    On Tuesday, after searching 24 houses in the Netherlands, officers cuffed eight men between the ages of 25 and 36 from Amsterdam, Almere, Rotterdam, and Spijkenisse, and a 25-year-old woman from Deventer. We're told the cops seized, among other things, a firearm, designer clothing, expensive watches, and tens of thousands of euros.

    Continue reading
  • NSO claims 'more than 5' EU states use Pegasus spyware
    And it's like, what ... 12, 13,000 total targets a year max, exec says

    NSO Group told European lawmakers this week that "under 50" customers use its notorious Pegasus spyware, though these customers include "more than five" European Union member states.

    The surveillance-ware maker's General Counsel Chaim Gelfand refused to answer specific questions about the company's customers during a European Parliament committee meeting on Thursday. 

    Instead, he frequently repeated the company line that NSO exclusively sells its spyware to government agencies — not private companies or individuals — and only "for the purpose of preventing and investigating terrorism and other serious crimes."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022