Cyber extortionists shilling "ransomware" have upped the ante by pushing users' panic buttons with claims that their malware will wipe hard drives, a security firm said Monday.
The claim is bogus, said Symantec, and is simply a ploy by scammers preying on people's fears.
"This is an attempt to extort money from computer users by taking advantage of human weakness when under panic and pressure," wrote Symantec researcher Jeet Morparia in a Dec. 24 blog post
Ransomware is a long-standing label for malware that, once on a personal computer, cripples the machine or encrypts its files, then displays a ransom note that demands payment to restore control to the owner. The technique, flatly called "an extortion racket" by Symantec last month, has been in use for at least six years. Until relatively recently, it was rare and ineffective and seen mostly in Eastern Europe.