Security Market Segment LS
Thursday, 02 June 2016 09:04

Jigsaw ransomware source code on sale

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The author of the Jigsaw ransomware, that encrypts files on Windows systems and then deletes them over time if a ransom is not paid, is selling the source code to the malware for US$139, according to researchers at Forcepoint security labs.

The ransomware was noticed in mid-April and several reports about it were published by various websites.

Forcepoint researchers said they had decided to do some preliminary analysis to understand the economics of the malware, where it was traded from and level of sophistication of the author.

Once a system is infected, Jigsaw issues a warning to the user that a certain number of files will be deleted at differing time intervals, unless a ransom of US$150 is paid to a specified Bitcoin account.

From a number of variants of Jigsaw, the Forcepoint team say they spotted a fake copyright notice in two of them; in one the date differed from the rest and in the second a typo present in all others had been corrected.

This led the researchers to believe that the malware was being rebuilt by different people with some modifying the source so as to avoid detection by standard anti-virus programs.

Searching for these copyright notices using the full text, it was easy to find the author. All the links, bar one, that came up in a search led to reports generated by automated malware analysis tools; the odd one out led to a Tor site belonging to the author of Jigsaw.

Here the source code for Jigsaw, which is written in C#, was offered for sale for a price of US$139. Forcepoint said it appeared that the author had made 24 sales.

However, return on investment seems to be very low. Forcepoint extracted the ransom Bitcoin addresses for four samples and found that in two cases the extortionist received no ransom payment at all. In one case they received US$1 worth of Bitcoin (which may have been merely a test) and the most successful one received a total of US$89 worth of Bitcoin.

Forcepoint also noted that though the Jigsaw author had provided instructions on how to configure and build the malware, some who had done so had left their names in the build strings for the executable.

"This could have been funny if it were not true," the Forcepoint team wrote in its analysis. "A mediocre and greedy techie writes a 2nd rate piece of malware that is designed to scare people into parting with their money. He (or she) sells it to a group of customers who are not that techno-savvy but are equally greedy and devoid of any morals. Hardly a happy story.

"But, if we needed an illustration of bad programmers selling to somewhat inept 'wannabe' criminals via the unregulated 'dark web', this is probably good enough for now."


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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