Saturday, 26 March 2016

The first ransomware

I remember the first ransomware.

It was a diskette that arrived in the post, and I was lucky enough to receive one. I remember the sense of anticipation as I read the accompanying documentation, and I thought, "This looks interesting".

So, of course, I installed it. In the virus lab. And it didn't diappoint. It counted the reboots, and after a fixed number (I think it was 100, but Wikipedia says 90) it encrypted all the file names on the hard disk.

It didn't encrypt the files, just the file names. So it was very easy to reverse.

It demanded $189 for fixing the problem. I doubt if anyone actually paid.

The author was Dr. Joseph Popp; he was arrested, charged, was declared mentally unfit to stand trial, and was deported back to the USA. Perhaps they have better nutter data.
I heard a rumour that he wore a paper bag over his head in court, but I can't confirm that.

This was in 1989, 27 years ago. There's nothing new about ransomware.

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