Highly targeted virus attacks: J. Sterling Ransomware
Security researchers have found a new ransomware virus called J. Sterling Ransomware. This infection targets students belonging to the J. Sterling Morton school district in Cicero, Illinois. Malware authors mask their virus as a student survey. At this very moment, J. Sterling Ransomware is still in development mode and cannot encrypt data files or any drives. However, this case of targeting relatively small group of users with a super relevant tool like student survey shows how far hackers can go to make their attack effective.
Ransomware authors used school's slogans and logos to create the login screen named "J. Sterling Student Survey." Users are tricked to log in and enter their grade.
As soon as users type any email and password, the initial window changes to a ransomware note. The note informs students that all files on this computer are encrypted. To get the files back, the affected user has to pay 10 USD in Bitcoins.
Again, for now, this virus is in-development and does not encrypt files. But as numerous previous facts say, it should not last too long. The necessary parts of the code can be easily found online and added to the J. Sterling Ransomware. And, yes, present-day cybercriminals do not need in-depth cryptography knowledge and skills. Ready-made solutions are already available on dark-net forums and marketplaces.
Security researchers believe the J. Sterling Ransomware was created by one of the students. This conclusion was drawn from the low ransom amount, basic code level, and highly targeted victim approach.
Until recently, hackers used to through a wide net of spam messages targeting as many victims as possible. This method is not very effective now. Many security vendors and email providers have increased the level of protection of their users. Because of that, we see that ransomware authors have started to use direct assaults like hacking the RDP and utilizing spear phishing attacks.
Targeted attacks like the one we are describing here are much more difficult to detect and protect from. Solid security skills and better education become crucial for present-day computer users in order to stay safe.