Malware-makers have created a strain of ransomware Trojan which masquerades as a Microsoft utility.
The Ransom-AN Trojan claims that a user's Windows machine is running an unlicensed copy of Windows and threatens to cripple the victim's computer unless marks pay €100 to obtain an unlock code, which can be purchased via credit card via a scam website. The malware attempts to spook intended victims with entirely bogus claims that a criminal prosecution will be launched unless payment is received within 48 hours. In addition, the Trojan says that all data and applications on targeted systems will be "permanently lost".
The malware, which targets German-speaking users (as illustrated by a screenshot here), is being distributed via spam and P2P downloads. Panda Software, the Spanish net security firm which detected the threat, warned that the Trojan is difficult to remove manually.
"These types of Trojans are very dangerous because once they infect the computer it is extremely difficult to remove them manually, forcing users to pay the ransom or reformat their devices," said Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs. "In addition, because Ransom.AN appears to come from Microsoft and threatens actions from authorities, many users believe what the Trojan says and make the payment out of fear."
More details on Ransom-AN, including an unlock code, useful in cases where users are unlucky enough to become infected, can be found in a blog post by Panda here.
Previous ransomware strains have encrypted files in a bid to force users into paying for getting infected. The tactics used by Ransom-AN Trojan are a more aggressive extension of the basic scam, using threats of prosecution and outwardly convincing screenshots supposedly from Microsoft to peddle the ruse. ®