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Cerber ransomware menace now targeting databases

Why try to extract pennies from kiddies when there's businesses to be bilked?

Criminals behind the massive Cerber ransomware enterprise are now targeting businesses as well as individuals with a module that kills and encrypts databases, warns Intel's former security arm McAfee.

Cerber had conducted more than 160 campaigns when examined in July targeting 150,0000 users and raking in a cracking US$195,000 in profits in that month alone.

Of that figure, Cerber's developer pocketed some US$78,000.

It is estimated the malware earns authors and affiliates some US$1 million to US$2.5 million a year.

Those figures surpass 2015 ransomware profits said to net authors a conservative US$84,000 a month for slinging ransomware at a cost of US$6000. That's a whopping 1425 per cent profit margin.

Security strategist Matthew Rosenquist says chasing businesses is the "next evolution" of ransomware.

"[Cerber] now attempts to stop database processes running on the target system so it can encrypt the data," Rosenquist says.

"This is a significant shift in focus from consumers to businesses, which typically run databases containing important operational data.

"When database files are open and in use by software, they cannot easily be encrypted."

It may not be the first to target businesses. The Register has been told of private ransomware variants sent to a limited number of highly-target organisations that encrypt very valuable databases and documents, demanding ransoms topping tens of thousands of dollars for the supply of decryption keys.

Rosenquist warns administrators to be on alert for databases abruptly stopping which could signal Cerber is starting its encryption run.

It appears there is no method to decrypt Ceber-encrypted files since an update to the malware rendered CheckPoint's decoding tool ineffective.

Security engineers are continually working to find a dwindling pool of implementation and side-channel vulnerabilities to help decrypt files encrypted with high quality ransomware.

The problem has this year been formalised into the NoMoreRansom alliance which unifies a formerly scattered and silo-ed, but furious effort by malware researchers to lay ruin to scores of ransomware variants, leaving a scant few including the latest Ceber, Cryptxxx, and Cryptowall unbroken.

Victims who cannot decrypt their ransomware infections should also try Trend Micro's continually updated decryption tool. ®

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