New extortion scheme using Citadel malware invokes Internet Crime Complaint Center

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership with the FBI, today issued a warning about an uptick in a new version of Citadel malware that uses the IC3's good name to try and extort money from victims.

From the IC3: A new extortion technique is being deployed by cyber-criminals using the Citadel malware platform to deliver Reveton ransomware. The latest version of the ransomware uses the name of the Internet Crime Complaint Center to frighten victims into sending money to the perpetrators. In addition to instilling a fear of prosecution, this version of the malware also claims that the user's computer activity is being recorded using audio, video, and other devices.

NEWS: DARPA program aims to find, shut backdoor, malware holes in commercial IT devices

MORE: In face of breaches, malware, unscrupulous users, US needs to update online privacy protection

The malware lures the victim to a drive-by download website, at which time the ransomware is installed on the user's computer. Once installed, the computer freezes and a screen is displayed warning the user they have violated United States Federal Law. The message further declares that a law enforcement agency has determined that a computer using the victim's IP address has accessed child pornography and other illegal content.

To unlock the computer, the user is instructed to pay a fine using prepaid money card services. The geographic location of the user's PC determines what payment services are offered. In addition to the ransomware, the Citadel malware continues to operate on the compromised computer and can be used to commit online banking and credit card fraud.

Just in August, the IC3 said another drive-by variant of Reveton malware was impersonating email from the FBI.

"We're getting inundated with complaints," said Donna Gregory of the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in a statement referring to the virus known as Reveton ransomware, which is designed to extort money from its victims. Reveton activates when users open a file or attachment -- this one can install itself when users simply click on a compromised website. In this case, once infected, the victim's computer locks, and the monitor displays a screen stating there has been a violation of federal law, the IC3 stated. To unlock their machines, users are required to pay a fine using a prepaid money card service.

The IC3 said the bogus message tells the user that their Internet address was identified by the FBI or the Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section as having been associated with child pornography sites or other illegal online activity. "Some people have actually paid the so-called fine," said Gregory, who oversees a team of cybercrime subject matter experts. Unlike other viruses, Reveton freezes your computer and the average user will not be able to easily remove the malware."

The Reveton virus, used by hackers in conjunction with Citadel malware -- a software delivery platform that can disseminate various kinds of computer viruses -- first came to the attention of the FBI in 2011. The IC3 issued a warning on its website in May 2012. Since that time, the virus has become more widespread in the United States and internationally. Some variants of Reveton can even turn on computer webcams and display the victim's picture on the frozen screen, the IC3 says.

In May the annual IC3 Internet Crime Report noted that the most common Internet crime complaints in 2011 were those involving scams that involved fraudsters pretending to be the FBI. The 2011 IC3 Internet Crime Report issued found that of the 314,246 complaints the IC3 received last year, more than 14,000 involved scamsters posing as the FBI in one shady online form or another. The 314,246 complaints represent a 3.4% increase over 2010.

The IC3 said the names of various government agencies and high-ranking government officials have been used in spam attacks in an attempt to defraud consumers by the hundreds. Government agencies do not send unsolicited emails, the group noted. Complaints related to spam emails purportedly sent from the FBI continued to be reported with high frequency to IC3. In 2011, IC3 received about 39 complaints per day of this type.

The IC3 suggests the following if you become a victim of the Reveton virus:

  Do not pay any money or provide any personal information.

  Contact a computer professional to remove Reveton and Citadel from your computer.

  Be aware that even if you are able to unfreeze your computer on your own, the malware may still operate in the background. Certain types of malware have been known to capture personal information such as user names, passwords, and credit card numbers through embedded keystroke logging programs.

  File a complaint and look for updates about the Reveton virus on the IC3 website.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: @nwwlayer8and on Facebook.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags RevetonDARPAlegalgovernmentindustry verticalsfbiransomwarecybercrimeInternet Crime Complaint CenterIC3securityCitadel Malware

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Michael Cooney

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place