FBI Ransomware spotted on Mac OS X

The so-called "FBI Ransomware" that has targeted Microsoft Windows users for years is now striking Mac OS X computers, security researchers warn, but add that the Mac version of the malware is technically different and much easier to remove.

FBI Ransomware often hits victims when they click on infected links at websites. This crimeware takes control of the computer, then displays a rambling message from the cyber-criminals saying the "Federal Bureau of Investigation" has determined there's child porn on the machine and in order to gain control of the computer back, you have to pay several hundred dollars. This has long been a Windows-based scam, but security firm Malwarebytes says this week it spotted the first Mac OS X version of the crimeware. Fortunately, the Mac version is much easier to remove than the Windows version, Malwarebytes senior security researcher, Jerome Segura.

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Although some reports have called it a Trojan, a better technical description is it would be a "piece of JavaScript that inserts iFrames," says Segura. "This is just a simple piece of JavaScript." The effect of it is that it's putting the Apple Safari browser on the Mac OS X computer into a kind of loop so that the user can't seem to get rid of the view of the "FBI Ransomware" that's demanding hundreds of dollars to free the computer up.

But getting rid of this particular Mac OS X FBI Ransomware is fairly straightforward, according to Malwarebytes, which explains the process in its blog and a video. It boils down to clicking on the Safari menu and choosing "reset Safari." When asked if you want to reset Safari, you need to click "yes" to every category, such as "clear history" to "close all Safari windows," and hit the reset button. That banishes the ransomware. Segura adds this FBI ransomware doesn't seem to work on the Apple iPhone,

The Mac OS X-based FBI ransomware is on a few porn sites or it appears as a trick to lure the victim doing a search with the popular search-engine keywords of the day.

"It's based on social engineering," says Segura.

The Mac version of the FBI Ransomware appears to be traced to servers hosted in St. Petersburg, Russia and may certainly be tied to cybercrime groups there believed to have come up with the original Windows version of FBI Ransomware.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail: emessmer@nww.com

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