No honour among thieves: hackers who hack each other

No honour among thieves: hackers who hack each other


In ransomware, as in any profitable business, there is a constant struggle to compete in the marketplace. Ransomware, the strain of malware which crypto locks a victim’s hard drive until the developer of the malware is paid, is a highly lucrative – and illegal- income earner for its authors. The strategy is so successful that some ransomware developers have even begun sabotaging other’s ransomware in a bid to secure their share of victims.

An exploitative crime, ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your personal data or locks your entire PC. You are asked to pay a “ransom” via an anonymous service in order to unlock your computer and free your data. Ransomware makes up a huge part of today’s active threats as it turned out to be one of the easiest income earners for attackers. Most other malware makes its developers money indirectly (by using or selling your computer power), but ransomware directly asks you (the victim) for cash to return your data or access to your PC. This is usually achieved through a lockout screen with a countdown timer and a link to a payment page where you are required to pay your ransom and receive a decryption key to unlock your files or computer.

To gain a competitive edge, hackers recently gained access to 3500 decryption keys for a competing organisation’s ransomware with a plan to release them to the public. Thus, rendering entire strains of their competition’s ransomware completely ineffective.

Fake ransomware has also become an issue which undermines the profitability of actual ransomware types, or, families. Actual ransomware developers are hacking developers of fake ransomware to ensure the continued profitability of this kind of crime.


F-secure recently reported that corporate sabotage has also been revealed as a key income generator in this field. A ransomware group claims they were paid handsomely by a Fortune 500 company to hack and infect a competing business. By locking the files of the competitor, the offending company was able to halt the competing company’s production and release a similar product first. This ransomware developer was paid twice, first by the offending company and secondly by the infected company via the ransomware lockout instructions.

If the profitability of ransomware is being threatened at all, it is being defended by those who know it best. This kind of malware shows no signs of disappearing any time soon.

How can you protect yourself from ransomware?

Though the basic features of ransomware are the same, there are many different ransomware families. We tested our product against 20 crypto-ransomware families to see how Emsisoft Anti-Malware held up. See the results here.

So, it’s not all bad. There are preventative steps you can take to keep your data free from ransomware.

  1. Make sure all your software is up to date – especially your operating system, your web browser and all browser plugins like Adobe Flash Player or Oracle’s Java Platform.
  2. Be cautious. Ask questions before you click. Read about how threats (and scams) work to avoid becoming a victim.
  3. Backup all of your personal files and documents. If somehow your computer is infected with ransomware, you can reinstall your system and restore your files.
  4. Make sure you run a strong anti-malware software with real-time protection and surf protection such as Emsisoft Anti-Malware.
  5. Run an occasional scan with a second opinion scanner, such as Emsisoft Emergency Kit, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware or Hitman Pro to check whether your PC is ransomware-free.

Have a great (malware-free) day!

  • cat1092

    Just protect yourself and/or business with Emsisoft Anti Malware (EAM) or Internet Security (EIS) & use common sense.

    You wouldn’t open the door to a stranger (day or night), would you? My guess is that at least 95 out of 100 people wouldn’t do that. So those 95 we don’t need to worry about as much as the 5 who would blindly open the door to anyone. Chances are, those same 5 are more likely to download unknown software on their computers w/out checking the source. Or opening an email from someone unknown, or have never done business with. Which is just as bad for your safety in the long run as opening the door to a stranger in the short haul.

    Once the data thief has what’s needed directly from your computer, your bank account(s) & investments can be wiped clean in minutes. Then to make matters worse, they can either open lines of credit in your name, or sell the data to someone else who would, for varying prices. Someone with a higher credit score is worth a lot more on the black market than one with lots of bad credit (the only ‘good’ thing about having the latter), and these thieves knows how to access these bases, often from the hacking of your computer, any data found & stolen.

    So while most folks knows to secure their computers, create full drive images often (though with this one, still not enough), and keep critical data, the kind that can be used against you as described above, off of the ‘C’ or OS drive & preferably onto one or more detached external drives (a mere Data drive or partition is only for short term storage of important items), there’s many that doesn’t realize that the old way of ‘internal backups’ doesn’t apply today. Unfortunately, the bad guys has forced us (myself included) to abandon this practice when the ‘crypto’ threats emerged. Even your Google & OneDrive folders are vulnerable, so keep an up to date hard copy of these weekly at a minimum on an external.

    That’s where EAM or EIS can be a huge help for the 5 who doesn’t know these things for pennies per day. Since most folks has more than one computer in the home, then one can save more with a value bundle for 3 or 5 PC’s (it costs less by buying in bulk).

    Be sure also to read the Emsisoft Blog, I have bookmarked countless pages, every one that shows, one can learn a lot of the basics needed to protect one’s self. I can attest that I’ve also learned a lot from the Emsisoft Blog posts & look forward to every one.

    Even if you’re doing ‘all of the good things’, download the free Emsisoft Emergency Kit, unzip to a folder in your Documents, update & run a quick Malware scan, and even if nothing is found, update & run a Custom Scan. SSD’s are the craze of today, and even on a mid powered computer, the scan will take less than 15 minutes, unless there’s several HDD’s packed with items from since the turn of the Millennium.;-) Then it’ll take longer, just be sure in Power Settings not to allow Sleep for this run. If anything is found…..anything, give EAM or EIS a shot for 30 days on the dime of Emsisoft. No nagware, maybe one to let you know that your Trial is about to expire, but no 3rd party junk.

    Have a safe day, and to the 5, stop trusting everyone blindly (even on & especially the Internet), you don’t have a ‘lost’ FedEx package in South America (unless living there) & not everyone is your friend, even if they pose as such.;-)