Yes, believe it or not, ransomware has become such a booming business for thieves, that these cyber thugs even provide bona fide customer service departments to guide their victims!
When ransomware infects your computer, it holds your files hostage; you can’t access them—until you pay the hacker (usually in bitcoins). Once paid, the crook will give you a decryption “key.” Sometimes the fee will go up if you don’t pay by a deadline. Fees may a few to hundred to several hundred dollars to way more for big businesses.
Thieves typically include instructions on how to pay up, and they mean business, sometimes being “nice” enough to offer alternatives to the tedious bitcoin process. They may even free one file at no cost just to show you they’re true to their word.
As the ransomware business flourished, particularly Cryptolocker and CryptoWall, hackers began adding support pages on their sites to victims.
An article at businessinsider.com mentions that one victim was able to negotiate a cheaper ransom payment.
Why would thieves support victims?
- It raises the percentages of payments made; the easier the process, the more likely the victim will pay. The businessinsider.com article quotes one ransomware developer as stating, “I tried to be as [much of] a gentleman thief as my position allowed me to be.”
- It makes sense: If victims are clueless about obtaining bitcoins and are seeking answers, why wouldn’t the crook provide help?
Perhaps the most compelling reason why bad hackers would want to help their victims is to get the word out that if victims pay the ransom, they WILL get their decryption key to unlock their encrypted files.
This reputation puts the idea into the heads of victims to “trust” the cyberthief. Otherwise, if ransomware developers don’t give the key to paying victims, then word will spread that it’s useless to pay the ransom. This is not good for the profit-seeking hacker.
These crooks want everyone to know that payment begets the key. What better way to establish this reliability than to provide “customer” support on websites and also via call centers where victims can talk to live people?
Apparently, at least one ransomware developer has a call center where victims can phone in and get guidance on how to get back their files.
Prevent ransomware by keeping your devices update with the latest OS, antivirus, updated browser, and back up your data both locally and in the cloud.