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Breaking Bad Cybercriminals Wreak Havoc on Australia

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Imagine losing all of the files on your computer due to a crash, or a bug, or some sort of damage to your hard drive- pretty frustrating. Now imagine losing all of your files and data due to hackers who watched a little too much television and the only way to get them back is by meeting an ultimatum- beyond frustrating. It’s downright unbelievable, but it is happening in Australia.

A group of hackers has been using ransomware to steal money from Australian citizens, and using photos from the hit TV show Breaking Bad to let users know they’ve been hacked. Ransomeware is basically the use of malware to take over another person’s computer and encrypt all of their files, then asking a ransom price in return for the key to their files. What’s really interesting about these attacks is that they show how vulnerable people are when they aren’t careful on the internet. The hackers were able to utilize social engineering in order to infiltrate people’s computers, rather than discover tiny exploits in software programs or use sophisticated and expensive tools. They simply distributed the malware via phishing emails with zip files attached and enticing file names that lead people to click the file, thus downloading the malware themselves.

Once the malware has gotten in, it encrypts the all of the computer’s files and an image appears that lets users know what is happening. The image is topped with a logo from the show Breaking Bad, a fast-food restaurant known as Los Pollos Hermanos. The text lets the victims know what to do from there, demanding $450 AUD to decrypt the files. As time passes, the amount of money required for decryption rises up to $1000 AUD- making for a real life ransom situation. Another twisted spin the hackers have incorporated is found in their email address, taking “the one who knocks” from Walter White’s famous line “I am the one who knocks.”

The victims of this ransomeware must then pay the ransom in bitcoin, which causes further problems because not many people know how to use this method of payment. It is, however, an effective method of anonymous money transfer, which is why the hackers have chosen it. In order to better their chances of making money off of this scheme, they have included a guide within the ransomeware titled “How to Buy Bitcoin,” which provides instructions on how to acquire bitcoin to those who don’t know how. How kind of them.