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Email scam Petya locks down PCs until a ransom is paid

A new piece of malware doing the rounds using popular cloud storage service Dropbox as its carrier is reportedly able to lock users out of their systems. The ransomware is known as Petya, and at present it seems to be forcing users to pay more than $400 to regain access to their computers.

Petya is being distributed via email, according to a report from Trend Micro. The package is included in correspondence intended to look like a message from a professional looking for work, which contains a Dropbox link that will supposedly allow the recipient to download their resume.

Unfortunately, that file is in fact a self-extracting executable that’s designed to install a Trojan which blocks any active security software and downloads the Petya ransomware. Once that groundwork has all been laid, the real attack can get underway.

Related: Kaspersky finds 1,200 versions of ‘Steam stealer’ malware

Petya overwrites the master boot record of the infected system, causing a blue screen of death. Once the user tries to reboot, they’ll be greeted with a bright red screen emblazoned with an ASCII skull and crossbones — and there’s no way of escaping this, as safe mode will have already been disabled.

The ransomware then informs the user that their system has been locked with a “military-grade encryption algorithm.” The only way to reverse the process is to head to the dark Web and pay for a key with bitcoin — the going rate is $431, and that figure doubles if the victim doesn’t pay within a certain schedule.

This is undoubtedly a very nasty piece of malware, and another piece of evidence that online criminals are continually developing their methods of attack. At present, it’s unclear what individuals can do to avoid being targeted, aside from being continually vigilant about the sort of links they click on in emails from unknown senders.