Hackers are stealing people's computer files and only giving them back if they pay money or accept to infect two other users with the malicious virus, cybersecurity researchers have found.
This type of attack is known as "ransomware" and it involves hackers encrypting files and the user having to pay a ransom in the form of money to get it back. In this ransomware case – known as Popcorn Time – the attackers ask for 1 bitcoin, which is equivalent to $778.79 at the time of publication. If a person pays up, the hackers will unlock the files.
But a more unusual part of the attack is where the hackers will give your files back for free, if you send a malicious link to two or more other people. This will then infect their devices.
Popcorn Time was discovered last week by Malware Hunter Team, a group of cybersecurity researchers, who posted screenshots of the malware on Twitter.
Users are warned that entering the wrong decryption code could lead to files that are taken hostage being destroyed.
The hackers are claiming to be a group of computer science students from Syria. In a screenshot posted by Malware Hunter Team, the hackers said that each part of their team has "lost a dear member from his family" and the money from the ransom will be used to help them survive.
"Be perfectly sure that all the money that we get goes to food, medicine, shelter to our people. We are extremely sorry that we are forcing you to pay but that's the only way that we keep living."