The malware that's been holding gamers' files hostage for $500 is now even more destructive

A family of malware known as TeslaCrypt has been plaguing gamers for months. It gained notoriety a few months back as one of the most serious online blackmail schemes, and now it seems to have gotten even worse.

When news first surfaced of TeslaCrypt, it was generally considered an interesting albeit rudimentary piece of ransomware. It worked by taking over people’s computers and then holding their files hostage for a price-tag of around $US500.

The malware focused on online video gamers specially, and targeted some of the most popular single-player games as well.

But for those who understand the inner workings of hackers and malware, TeslaCrypt wasn’t the worst of threats. For one, its encryption (the mathematical cipher that holds files hostage) wasn’t that strong. More, if people realised their files were being encrypted, the malware was written so that users could interrupt the process and regain access to their files.

But now, the hackers behind TeslaCrypt have fortified their code to fix these problems. Kaspersky Lab writes that the news version of TeslaCrypt — dubbed TeslaCrypt2.0 — fixes some of the encryption issues. The creators have “implemented some new features preventing decryption of stolen files and discovery of malware’s command&control servers.”

Even worse, the encryption is much stronger than before. In short, the hackers have learned from their mistakes and have made quite a strong piece of ransomware.

And for gamers targeted, the ransom to regain control of their files is not cheap. At the current bitcoin exchange rate it costs about $US500 to regain access to files.

According to Kaspersky Lab, the most popular countries targeted are the US, Germany, UK, France, Italy, and Spain. If you’d like to take some safety precautions to protect yourself from this particular type of malware, the best thing to do is to back up all your files in a place that is not connected at all to your computer. You should also make sure all software and any antitvirus programs on your computer are completely up to date.

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