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Ransomware author apologises to victims, pushes out decryption keys

"I'm sorry about the encryption, your files are unlocked for free."

Crypto-ransomware has become a lucrative enterprise for cybercriminals
Crypto-ransomware has become a lucrative enterprise for cybercriminals

The author of a new crypto-ransomware known as Locker has apparently had a change of heart about using it against victims, and has posted an apology for unleashing the threat.

Locker emerged last week, lying dormant on infected computers until May 25, according to a recent report from Symantec. Once activated, the ransomware encrypted files on compromised computers and held them for ransom.

However, after Locker was activated, the alleged author apparently had a change of heart about using it against people, and posted an apology about the ransomware. The author then provided free access to a database containing the decryption keys, along with a declaration that the automatic decryption of files would start on June 2.

"I'm sorry about the encryption, your files are unlocked for free. Be good to the world and don't forget to smile :)," the author's message read.

Norton by Symantec said that, before the author's sudden change of heart, a total of $169 via 22 ransoms had been handed over in Bitcoin payments.

"Given the reported low earnings of this crypto ransomware, Norton hypothesizes that the malware author may have realized that the risk versus the penalties of getting caught was not worth it, lost control of the threat, risked being exposed, or merely regretted this/her actions," the security vendor said.

Crypto-ransomware has become a lucrative enterprise for cybercriminals:  in 2014, ransomware attacks grew 113%, driven by more than a 4,000% increase in crypto-ransomware attacks.