Cybersecurity

Watch out for ‘Breaking Bad’-themed malware

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Hackers are taking inspiration from drug kingpin Walter White from the hit television show “Breaking Bad.”

A new type of so-called ransomware — which encrypts your computer files and threatens to delete them unless you pay a fee — is cropping up around Australia, draped in “Breaking Bad” references.

{mosads}Security researchers at Symantec uncovered the new strain of computer virus.

The ransom demand message is branded as a billboard for “Los Pollos Hermanos,” the fictional (or not?) fried-chicken restaurant “where something delicious is always cooking,” as the employees are required to say when answering the phone.

The digital thieves are demanding up to $791 (or $1,000 in Australian dollars) to decrypt files.

They style themselves as real-life Walter Whites, with an email playing off of White’s intimidatingly growled line, “I am the one who knocks.”

Joking TV references aside, ransomware is a growing problem.

The FBI highlighted the issue in January, saying it had seen a sudden rise in the use of the malicious strategy.

“Ransomware has been around for several years, but there’s been a definite uptick lately in its use by cyber criminals,” the bureau said, calling the most recent iterations of the virus “devastating.”

It’s simply gotten easier these days for digital crooks to get ransomware onto a computer, the FBI explained. Anonymous digital currencies, such as bitcoin, have also greased the payment process.

“When ransomware first hit the scene, computers predominantly became infected with it when users opened e-mail attachments that contained the malware,” it said. “But more recently, we’re seeing an increasing number of incidents involving so-called ‘drive-by’ ransomware, where users can infect their computers simply by clicking on a compromised website.”

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