In the Dark Knight, there is a scene where two ferries full of people cross a river to escape from Gotham before the Joker does something terrible. Unfortunately for the people on the boat, that was exactly what the Joker was planning on. While they’re in the middle of the river both boats lose their engines and explosives and detonators are found onboard. Just as the captain of the ship wonders why they gave him the detonator to the bomb on his boat, the Joker speaks over the intercom and tells them they have the detonator to the other boat’s bomb. They can either blow up the other boat, or the Joker will blow up both boats at midnight. Of course, all hell breaks loose.
And that’s where you come in.
Because while you may not be a citizen of Gotham, if you don’t take the time to educate yourself on the latest cybersecurity trends you could be choosing which friend you’re going to infect with ransomware because of a new ransomware called Popcorn Time.
Ransomware is pretty evil to begin with. Hackers encrypt data and tell their victim that they have a few hours to pay a ransom or their data will be deleted or the ransom will go up, but it just got much worse. When a person is infected with the Popcorn Time ransomware, they’re given a choice. The fast and easy way, or the nasty way. They are given the choice to pay 1 bitcoin ($800) or to send a referral link to two people. If the people are infected by the link and pay, then the original victim will get their decryption key for free.
Even if there are a few people who you want to give a cyber lump of coal this Christmas, this is not a position you want to be in. This is the first time ransomware has given victims the option to infect other people so there is no telling what the consequences for doing so would be. You wouldn’t be able to blame the hackers for sending the referral link, so you could be held liable for the damage the ransomware does. And that could be a lot to answer for since Popcorn Time will delete data if the victim enters the wrong decryption code 4 times. And don’t forget, one of the worst part of ransomware hacks is there is no way to hold the hackers to their word. They could take your money or let you infect other people and never send you your decryption key.
Or you might respond the way some of the people on the ferries did and say there’s no way that you’re going to spread it. If you do, good for you, you’ve passed the test and can sleep easy at night knowing you’re a good person. The bad news is that you still have to either fork up $800 or kiss your data goodbye.
The even worse news is that you can expect more versions of this ransomware to pop up. Now that someone has broken the seal on this terrible idea, you can expect other hackers to put their own spin on it. There’s no telling how much or how other hackers will target people with the same type of ransomware.
The good news is that if you know how to protect yourself from ransomware, then you’ll never have to worry about Popcorn Time. If you back up your data to a secure location and educate yourself and everyone with access to your network on ransomware and other cybercrime, then you’ll never have to decide which of your contacts will get a nasty surprise courtesy of you. Save yourself the trouble and stay up to day on all things cybercrime.