Efforts to tackle the scourge of ransomware have been boosted by a new initiative designed to educate people about the threat and offer keys that can unlock devices without having to pay the fraudsters.
The No More Ransom portal has been created by Intel Security, Kaspersky Lab, Europol and the Dutch National Police in response to the rising threat from ransomware, which had almost one million victims in the EU during 2015.
The portal will contain material designed to educate users about the threat of ransomware and where it comes from, but it is the access to some 160,000 keys that is most notable.
The keys cover numerous ransomware strains, most notably the Shade trojan that emerged in 2014. This is a particularly nasty ransomware that is spread via websites and infected email attachments.
However, the command and control servers for Shade that stored the decryption keys were seized by law enforcement, and the keys were given to Kaspersky and Intel Security.
These have now been entered into the No More Ransom portal so that victims can access their data without paying the criminals.
Jornt van der Wiel, security researcher with Kaspersky's global research and analysis team, explained that the portal will help people to take a stand against the rise of ransomware.
"The biggest problem with crypto-ransomware today is that when users have precious data locked down they readily pay criminals to get it back. That boosts the underground economy, and we are facing an increase in the number of new players and the number of attacks as a result," he said.
“We can only change the situation if we coordinate our efforts to fight against ransomware. The appearance of decryption tools is just the first step on this road.”
Raj Samani, EMEA chief technology officer at Intel Security, echoed this sentiment. “This collaboration goes beyond intelligence sharing, consumer education and takedowns to actually help repair the damage inflicted on victims,” he said.
“By restoring access to their systems, we empower users by showing them they can take action and avoid rewarding criminals with a ransom payment."
The effort is laudable and could help many people avoid having to hand over cash to criminals, but it will still require some basic technological knowhow. This may prove too taxing for some, leaving the crooks free to make an easy buck from someone else's misfortune.
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