A new dangerous ransomware is threatening internet users in Vietnam, a cybersecurity organization said on Thursday.

Vietnam Computer Emergency Response Team (VNCERT) has warned businesses and government entities of an online epidemic spread by malicious software GandCrab, which encrypts infected computers’ data before forcing users to pay $400 - $1,000 to retrieve them.

GandCrab is also affecting several other countries and has been highlighted by VNCERT as “extremely dangerous,” without specifying the degree of damage it has caused so far in Vietnam.

VNCERT advised users not to click on any suspicious links as well as attachments in emails with unusual contents. The organization also warned businesses to be on constant watch, update their firewalls and isolate servers infected with GandCrab.

GandCrab masquerades as online advertisements or crafted email messages before infecting a computer system. Upon its infection, the ransomware will encrypt all files and produce a plain text file with instructions for users to pay the ransom with a cryptocurrency called Dash if they ever hope to get their files back.

But the chances of retrieving the data are slim, said Pham Duc Hoang, a Vietnamese independent cybersecutity expert. Even if the transactions were completed, there’s no guarantee that the encrypted files would ever be unlocked, he said.

GandCrab was first identified as a ransomware back in January. According to Bitdefender, a Romanian cybersecurity company, the malicious software has infected over 50 thousand computers globally.

GandCrab’s nature and attack method are eerily reminiscent of WannaCry, a ransomware that made headlines last year after ravaging global computer systems, including Vietnam’s. The malicious software proliferated quickly and afflicted 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries by last May, crippling the networks at many businesses and schools, forcing victims to pay hundreds of dollars each to regain access to their computers.

Malware cost Vietnamese users VND12.3 trillion ($540 million) in losses last year, according to Bkav, a Vietnamese cybersecurity corporation.

By Vien Thong & Dinh Nam - VnExpress.net - April 8, 2018