IT Freedom Blog

The Odd Place of Customer Service in Malware

by Matt Miller on

If you know anything about the tech world today, you know that malware is a BIG problem. If you aren’t familiar with the term, malware is a tool used by criminals to gain access to your computer – most often delivered through widely distributed malicious email attachments, targeted email attacks known as “phishing”, or compromised web sites.


One particular type of malware that has caught a lot of attention recently is aptly called “ransomware”.

The ransomware process goes like this:

  • Your computer gets compromised by malicious software, likely through one of the methods mentioned above.
  • The malicious software encrypts your personal files, rendering them unreadable without the encryption key (which the hackers have and you don’t.)
  • Following the unauthorized encryption, the criminals behind the cyber intrusion make contact through an on-screen message, “live chat” type portal, etc. on your compromised computer. They demand a payment in return for the decryption key that will unlock your documents, pictures, music, databases, spreadsheets, etc.

Ransomware has become an underground industry in its own right. And like any successful industry, it supports its customers through the transaction to maximize its bottom line.

I.T. journalist Jai Vijayan wrote, “Since 2005, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received more than 7,700 complaints involving ransomware according to data released earlier this year. The incidents have resulted in victims paying more than $57 million in ransom money to cyber extortionists.”

What Vijayan finds interesting is the fact that these criminals have become more sophisticated in their customer relations. Researchers found that the use of ransomware to steal people’s money has become as streamlined and modern as any other online transaction, including negotiating price and seeming to compete for the best “customer experience.”

Cryptomix, TorrentLocker, Cerber, Cryptolocker, Jigsaw, and Shade – just some of the underground ransomware empires – have developed various “customer service” strategies designed to get as much money out of the mark as possible. And above all, they work to make sure that the mark doesn’t give up on retrieving their files altogether and terminate communication.

Their “customer service” strategies include:

  • Courtesy in communication
  • Delaying the “deadlines”
  • Negotiating the price
  • Helping people through the (largely untraceable) payment process

It is more than a little mind boggling that these criminals not only get away with this, but can set up such elaborate systems, procedures, and customer service to keep their evil enterprise running at full speed.

Ransomware is one of those tech issues that you have to prepare for before it strikes. Now is the time to take action. IT Freedom can arm your business against ransomware through a mixture of basic software defenses, “next gen” security methods, and a solid data backup strategy.

Acting now will save you a LOT of money and a TON of headaches if you do become one of the unfortunate businesses targeted by these cyber intruders.


For similar posts check out our master list of Cyber Security blogs.

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