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I’m in the empire business: Breaking Bad themed malware

Over the course of five seasons, Breaking Bad introduced viewers to the illustrious Walter White and his unique brand of home-grown crystal meth. A show centring around his lawyer, Saul Goodman, debuted earlier this year — but it turns out that 2015 will see the hit series come back in another form.

However, this is far from the sort of spin-off fans are craving. Instead, a new strain of ransomware is using one of the most iconic locations from Breaking Bad, according to a report from Symantec. In the show, Los Pollos Hermanos was a chicken restaurant, but in real life it’s a piece of malware that you really don’t want on your computer.

Upon infection, users are being presented with a message that states that their files and personal information is under lockdown. They’re then given the choice between paying $450 AUD within a short span of time, or $1000 AUD if they can’t meet that time limit.

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That’s a typical strategy for this sort of malware, although the money being asked for here is reportedly a little higher than the average amount. It’s thought that the malicious files are being circulated via phony .zip archives being attributed to major Australian couriers — PENALTY.VBS is the name of the file that downloads the ransomware to the user’s device.

While scams like this are in effect all over the world, this particular case seems to be focussed on Australia for the time being. Even though Australian users are at most risk of being targeted, the malware has just as much capacity to lock down a computer from anywhere in the world. The best defense is simply to be vigilant about any file you open on your PC.

Meanwhile, these would-be Walter Whites remain at large. The protagonist of Breaking Bad certainly did some morally dubious things over the course of the show’s run, but at least he never resorted to holding strangers’ laptops to ransom.