Cybercriminals gain access to our online data often, and for a variety of reasons. Most of the time, they like to do so unnoticed. But a new cybercrime trend is changing the game, bringing forth a more confrontational side of cybercriminals.
It’s called ransomware, and it’s growing in popularity. Its mission is simple: lock down your device and hold your data hostage until you cough up a requested sum of money.
I’ve discussed ransomware before, but a new type, called TeslaCrypt, is targeting one group of people in particular: video gamers.
Researchers report that TeslaCrypt, an offshoot version of another kind of ransomware called CryptoLocker, is a new and lucrative business for attackers. Between February and April 2015, cybercriminals have collected $76,522 from 163 victims. The attackers block access to gamer’s files such as game saves, maps and profiles by encrypting them. Then, they demand money to decrypt and return the hijacked information. Victims have paid anywhere from $150 to $500 in Bitcoins or $1,000 in PayPal My Cash to retrieve their data.
Historically, these hackers have targeted small businesses and charities. But gamers are lucrative targets because of their perceived dedication to their games. Some of the gaming files — software that helps to keep games running smoothly — targeted by TeslaCrypt include Bethesda Softworks, Steam NCF Valve Pak, EA Sports, Unreal 3 and Skyrim animation. Affected games include Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, F.E.A.R. 2, Bioshock 2, Leagues of Legends, World of Tanks, Minecraft and more. It should be noted that this ransomware is targeting users of computer games only — there is no indication of compromise to separate gaming systems such as Xbox or Playstation.
If you have any of these games or gaming files, avoid downloading “mods,” — additional programs or software used to improve the functionality, interface or aesthetic experience of video games. The cybercriminals responsible for TeslaCrypt are disguising their dangerous wares as these programs.
If you do find yourself in an unhappy situation, it’s never a good idea to pay the ransom. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the data back, and it encourages more cybercriminals to spread ransomware. Whether you’re a gamer or not, you should implement a few simple safety measures to keep your data secure.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Learn to recognize phishing attacks. Phishing is a tried and true method attackers use to spread malicious software. Train yourself to catch them. A few red flags are bad grammar, strange formatting and unusual language. If you see any suspicious links, don’t click on them, and if you don’t recognize the sender, ignore the email.
- Backup your files regularly. Store your data on an external hard drive that isn’t connected to your PC. If an attack does happen, you can restore the data from the backup and clear out your disk drive.
- Don’t install un-vetted mods. Although it’s tempting to use game modification files, or mods, from third parties, you run the risk of downloading malicious Trojan files. Stick to reputable vendors who assess content, like Steam and Nexus.
- Use comprehensive security. Protecting your data can be made easy and less worrisome with McAfee LiveSafe™ service. You can scan and help protect your devices from these ransomware attacks and any other attacks the Internet has to throw at you.