Alleged ransomware gang investigated by Moscow police

The gang made $25,000 in a month from victims who had to send SMS messages to unlock their PCs

Russian police are reportedly investigating a criminal gang that installed malicious "ransomware" programs on thousands of PCs and then forced victims to send SMS messages in order to unlock their PCs.

The scam has been ongoing and may have made Russian criminals millions of dollars, according to reports by Russian news agencies. Russian police seized computer equipment and detained a Russian "crime family" in connection with the crime, the ITAR-TASS News Agency reported Tuesday.

Russian-language reports say that 10 people are expected to be charged and that tens of thousands of Russian-language victims were hit by the scam, which also affected users in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.

The criminals reportedly used news sites to spread their malicious software, known as WinLock, which disables certain Windows components, rendering the PC unusable, and then displays pornographic images.

To unlock the code, victims must send SMS messages that cost between 300 rubles (US$9.72) and 1,000 rubles.

The scam is "very popular" in countries such as Russia at the moment, antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab said in an e-mailed statement.

Security experts have tracked this type of software for more than a year now, but in most of the world it rarely shows up, according to Dave Marcus, director of McAfee Labs security research communications.

The software is not considered to be a very sophisticated threat, he said. "It's just locking your screen with a password you don't know, which is not that sophisticated when you get down to do."

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cybercrimelegalkaspersky lab

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?