CryptoWall: Hackers using bitcoin to demand ransoms

Web users have to worry about yet another security threat: ransomware. The FBI now estimates that losses due to ransomware, a type of malware, topped $18 million dollars in the last year.

Unfortunately, hackers have been using bitcoin and other digital currencies as their primary choice for payments. As bitcoin transactions hide the identity of the receiving party, the digital currency has become a top choice for hackers and other people engaged in illicit activities.

With ransomware, computer hackers basically take control of sensitive or valuable information and hold it hostage. If users do not pay a ransom, they lose access to the data.

Ransomware has become one of the fastest growing and most common types of security threats threatening the web. Between April of 2014 and June of 2015, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 992 complains related to Cryptowall, the most commonly used ransomware software.

As already mentioned, ransomware could be generating $18 million dollars in costs. Much of the costs are accrued not through ransoms, however, but instead post-attack costs, such as network mitigation, increased security measures, legal costs, and lost productivity.

Ransoms can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the nature of the information and the targeted person or company. The highest reported ransoms demand so far have been for $10,000 dollars.

Dell SecureWorks estimates that as many as 600,000 computers have been infected with one variant or another of CryptoWall. Dell estimates that as much as $1 million dollars in ransoms have been paid out, making the malicious malware one of the most profitable scams of all time. Many of the ransoms were paid using bitcoin.

CryptoWall can infect computers running either Mac or Windows operating systems. So far, it does not appear that Linux computers or

Originally appeared at: