1 June 2006
Do not panic if your data is hidden by virus writers demanding a
Poor programming has allowed anti-virus companies to discover the
password to retrieve the hijacked data inside a virus that has claimed
at least one UK victim.
The Archiveus virus caught out British nurse Helen Barrow and swapped
her data with a password-protected file.
The virus is the latest example of so-called "ransomware" that tries
to extort cash from victims.
Analysis of Archiveus has revealed that the password to unlock the
file containing all the hijacked files is contained within the code of
the virus itself.
This virus swaps files found in the "My Documents" folder on Windows
with a single file protected by a 30-digit password. Victims are only
told the password if they buy drugs from one of three online
The 30-digit password locking the files is
"mf2lro8sw03ufvnsq034jfowr18f3cszc20vmw". Using the password should
restore all the hijacked files.
"Now the password has been uncovered, there should be no reason for
anyone hit by this ransomware attack to have to make any payments to
the criminals behind it," said Graham Cluley, senior technology
consultant for security firm Sophos.
Archiveus was discovered on 6 May but it took the rest of the month
for the first victim, Rochdale nurse Helen Barrow, to emerge.
Ms Barrow is thought to have fallen victim when she responded to an
on-screen message warning her that her computer had contracted another
unnamed virus. The virus asks those it infects to buy drugs on one of
three websites to get their files back.
"When I realised what had happened, I just felt sick to the core,"
said Ms Barrow about the incident.
The Archiveus virus is only the latest in a series of malicious
programs used by extortionists to extract cash from victims. Archiveus
seems to use some parts of another ransoming virus called Cryzip that
was circulating in March 2006.
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