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New Ransomware Study Explores “Customer Journey” of Getting Your Files Back

July 2016 by F-Secure

Ransomware criminals actually care about your convenience. That’s according to a recent experiment detailed in a new F-Secure report, Evaluating the Customer Journey of Crypto-Ransomware and the Paradox Behind It. The experiment involved evaluating the “customer experience” of five current crypto-ransomware variants, beginning with the initial ransom screen all the way to interacting with the ransomware criminals behind each of those variants.

The report’s findings include:

• Those families with the most professional user interfaces are not necessarily also those with the best customer service.
• Crypto-ransomware gangs are usually willing to negotiate the price. Three out of four variants were willing to negotiate, averaging a 29% discount from the original ransom fee.
• Ransomware deadlines are not necessarily “set in stone.” 100% of the groups contacted granted extensions on the deadlines.
• One of the groups claimed to be hired by a corporation to hack another corporation – a kid playing a prank, or a sinister new threat actor?

The report highlights the paradox of crypto-ransomware: On one hand, perpetrators are “the nasty criminal, but on the other hand, they have to establish a degree of trust with the victim and be ready to offer a certain level of service in order to realize the payment in the end,” according to the report. As such, crypto-ransomware families often operate similar to legitimate businesses, with accessible web pages, helpful FAQs, “free trials” for file decryption, and even customer support channels with responsive agents on the other side.

“We read stories about ransomware every day, and lately the word ‘epidemic’ is being used to describe its proportions,” says Sean Sullivan, Security Advisor at F-Secure. “We wanted to offer a different look at this problem of mass crime, but ultimately to take the opportunity to remind people and businesses once again of what they can do to protect themselves from this threat. Software updates, good security software, caution with email, and most importantly, in case all else fails, back up your stuff regularly, before you ever become a victim.”




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