Ransomware and scammy tech support sites team up for a vicious one-two punch

One holds your files hostage, the other overcharges to fix nonexistent computer problems

Symantec has seen a curious fusing of two pernicious online threats, which would cause a big headache if encountered by users.

Some websites offering questionable tech support services are also dishing up ransomware, which locks up a users files until they pay a fee to decrypt them.

The support scams involve trying to convince users they have a computer problem and then selling them overpriced software or support services to fix it. It's often done via a pop-up message that urges people to call a number or download software.

Symantec has seen tech support websites also trying to install ransomware in the background. Ransomware is malware that encrypts a computer's files and asks for a payment, often in bitcoin, for the decryption key to be released.

"Unfortunate victims could end up paying both the fake tech support scam for 'help' and the ransom to decrypt their files, " wrote Deepak Singh, an associate threat analyst with Symantec, in a blog post.

On one tech support site seen by Symantec, an iframe hidden on the page redirected to the Nuclear exploit kit, a popular one used to spread malware.

It's unclear if the people running tech supports scams are working with those who create and rent out the use of exploit kits and associated infrastructure. But some tech support scams have experimented with ransomware, Singh wrote.

It's also possible that the tech support websites, like many other websites, have been compromised in order to redirect visitors to exploit kits.

"Regardless, this is the first time we've seen tech support scams running in tandem with the Nuclear exploit kit to deliver ransomware," Singh wrote. "If this proves to be an effective combination, we are likely to see more of this in the future."

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

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

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?