Ransomware is out there targeting the master boot record to take control of a system, said researchers at Trend Micro.
The move is a step beyond typical pieces of ransomware, which usually encrypt files or restricts user access to the infected system. In this case, the malware copies the original MBR and overwrites it with its own malicious code.
“Right after performing this routine, it automatically restarts the system for the infection to take effect,” said Cris Pantanilla, a threat response engineer at Trend Micro.
When the system restarts, the users get a message telling them their PC will remain blocked until they pay a certain amount of money. Once payment occurs, the attacker promises to hand over a code to unlock the system, Pantanilla added.
Trend Micro said they have only seen one case of this particular piece of malware so far. The company did not have additional information about how the machine became infected. However in the last 30 days, the company has observed nearly 9,000 ransomware threats, the company said.
In February, French users ended up targeted in an attack when a legitimate website suffered a compromise and made to serve up phony notifications from the country’s National Gendarmerie police force that infected users. In January, Japanese users were the target of ransomware as part of a one-click billing fraud scheme focused on Android phones.
As of March 8, the United States was home to the largest percentage of the ransomware infections, and five of the top eight countries for infections were in Europe, Trend Micro said.
“Unfortunately, we may not be seeing the end of ransomware attacks just yet,” Pantanilla said.