It was only a matter of time until some clever hacker decided to leverage Pokemon GO's huge success to create Pokemon-themed ransomware.
The bad news is that the person who developed this new threat is not happy with just delivering a basic crypto-ransomware but is also interested in data exfiltration scenarios as well as creating a backdoor account on the infected devices.
Discovered by security researcher Michael Gillespie, this new ransomware appears to be currently under development, gearing up for a larger distribution campaign. The person behind this ransomware is distributing the threat as a Windows executable called PokemonGo.exe, which includes an icon of a very adorable Pikachu. Clicking the ransomware's EXE starts the encryption process.
Security researchers say this ransomware is based on the Hidden Tear project, an open-sourced piece of ransomware released last year, which contains an encryption backdoor. After encrypting the user's files, the ransomware also adds a registry key that creates and then hides a Windows admin account called "Hack3r."
To ensure it survives PC reboots, the ransomware copies itself to the root of all fixed drives and adds an autorun entry in order to start. It additionally looks for removable drives and creates a copy of itself there as well, also adding an autorun file to ensure its executable launches when a user inserts the portable drive in another PC.
"Pokemon GO ransomware is currently under development"
Researchers are very confident this is only a testing version because the ransomware's encryption system uses a static encryption key of "123vivalalgerie" and also tries to connect to a C&C server located at the IP address 10.25.0.169, which can't actually be reached via the Internet. That's because it is a private IP address assigned for usage inside privately routed networks only. At this time, the ransomware's ransom screen and ransom note are available only in Arabic. If we take the AES encryption key, which mentions Algeria and the usage of French and Arabic text, we may have a clue about the ransomware coder's whereabouts.
If in the future other ransomware variants that use Pokemon and Pikachu cues appear, users can determine whether they've been hit by this ransomware by reading the ransom note, which asks infected victims to contact the hacker via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Knowing its Hidden Tear connection, users who fall victim to this threat are advised not to pay the ransom and contact either Bleeping Computer or Michael Gillespie to inquire about the availability of a free decrypter. Have you given Pokémon Go full access to everything in your Google account?