Satish Jawale’s (name changed) laptop stopped responding last week after he clicked on a link in an email on June 28. Hackers took control of the data in his laptop and to decrypt the data, demanded a ransom in the form of cryptocurrency worth Rs20 lakh
Sumit Kumar’s data saved in his laptop was encrypted by hackers, who demanded ransom in the form of cryptocurrency worth Rs50 lakh.
In June and July, the cybercrime cell of the Pune police received four such complaints from software engineers working in Pune. Hackers locked their data and demanded ransom to encrypt it.
“None of the techies paid ransom; they approached the police,” senior inspector D S Hake of the cybercrime police said. “We have received four such complaints in June and July,” Hake said.
Police said the techies were working from home because of the pandemic and that they were either using unsecured internet connections or had not updated their firewalls. The hackers targeted their data, especially important files that had been compressed by the techies to transmit from their laptops to their official clients or their offices.
“These important compressed files were encrypted by the hackers, who demanded ransom to decrypt the data,” Hake said.
He said those targeted by ransomware attacks should always approach the police instead of caving to the hackers’ demands.
In these four cases, the techies received ransom emails from the hackers. “The hackers generally use fake and fabricated domain names and route their mails to their possible victims via many servers,” Hake said, explaining why it was hard to track down the perpetrators.
“Once the mail is opened by the victim, the hackers gain access to the laptop. They take control and encrypt the data, and demand ransom in form of cryptocurrency,” he explained.
“The victims can only receive messages from the hackers on their laptops; nothing else works,” he said.
Hake said such cases were usually extremely difficult to solve and that techies and those dealing with important data must take precautions.
“A well-known form of malware, ransomware ruthlessly holds a computer’s data for ransom via encryption. If the user doesn’t pay the cybercriminal a certain amount of money within a stipulated period, their data will be lost forever,” Rohan Nyayadhish, a cybercrime expert, said, adding, “The hackers ask users to pay ransom in cryptocurrency like bitcoin. If the ransom is not paid on time, the amount is doubled. If payment is not made, the data is deleted,” Nyayadhish said, adding, ““This malware not only spreads by itself rapidly, but also evolves quickly to avoid any attempts at mitigation.”