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International news sites hit by ransomware, report finds

According to a report by security researchers at Malwarebytes, a number of international news websites have had adverts targeted by cyber criminals attempting to install ransomware on computers.

The targeted attacks focused on news websites including The New York Times and the BBC, which garners billions of traffic. The attacks were aimed through multiple different advertising networks and specifically used a number of security vulnerabilities, including targeting flaws in Silverlight.

When the user clicks on these adverts, the malware redirects users to a different page. The malware will then attempt to find a back door into the user's computer and install cryptolocker software, which encrypts a user's hard drive and prevents them from accessing it. It is here that the cybercriminals demand a ransom.

According to the report, ransomware is rapidly becoming the go-to malware for cybercriminals to install on computers. Recently, the first Mac OS X ransomware appeared in an infected download of a BitTorrent client called Transmission.

While in the past, particularly with ransomware attacks, cybercriminals typically only ask for a few hundred pounds (usually in the form of cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin), a recent ransomware attack targeted an LA hospital and forced the organisation to pay a ransom of $17,000 (£12,000).

The recent surge in attacks via different advertising networks has been linked to the increasing usage of adblockers. Critics claim that they harm the business model of offering free publications and are primarily a “modern-day protection racket”, while advocates say that their computers are protected from ransomware attacks and are much more pleasant and faster when browsing the web.

Filed in: News

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