Some people who visited notorious piracy site The Pirate Bay over the weekend were infected with “ransomware,” according to security company MalwareBytes.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts data on the victim’s computer, making it permanently inaccessible unless the victim pays a ransom — typically in anonymous digital currency bitcoin.
The method of attack has become increasingly popular in recent years, largely because it works: Users almost always get their data back if they pay the ransom, because the attackers have a vested interest in encouraging them to pay. If word got out that you wouldn’t get your data back even if you paid, the effectiveness of the attack would collapse pretty quickly as no-one would pay.
In the case of The Pirate Bay, users were targeted via rogue adverts, according to Malwarebytes researchers. These redirected the user to a third-party site, which then downloaded Cerber ransomware onto the victim’s machine.
The Pirate Bay likely had nothing to do with this “malvertising” attack. Malware is sometimes spread through ad networks without the knowledge of the website whose site the dangerous advert is appearing on. Forbes’ adverts have been caught feeding users malware before.
It’s not clear what proportion of The Pirate Bay’s users were affected, although it was likely a particularly popular weekend for the site. The new season of “Game of Thrones” premiered on Sunday — and was illegally downloaded more than a million times in 12 hours, reports torrent news site TorrentFreak.