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"A number of ransomware-as-a-service affiliate schemes allow even the most technically illiterate cyber thief to cash in on a form of crime which cost businesses over a billion dollars last year, and it's only the beginning, with file locking malware only set to grow and take larger role in cybercrime, warn researchers.

This new ransomware operation is providing malicious software to affiliates for free in exchange for a big slice of any successful scores. The move represents another evolution in ransomware which could make it an even more dangerous threat, because criminals may be tempted to download it and launch a ransomware campaign as they don't need to part with their cash to do so."

Victims are infected with the Dot ransomware using malicious phishing attachments, which will encrypt their files when they run and open a ReadMe HTML, informing them they need to pay a Bitcoin ransom in order to regain access to their data.

"The simplistic and straight-forward design of Dot ransomware enables just about anyone to conduct cybercrime," warn Fortinet researchers, who predict Dot will soon become a big threat to businsesses.

"Although we haven't seen this ransomware in the wild, with the advertisements being made accessible on hacking forums, it's only a matter of time until people start taking the bait."

The scheme reared up its ugly head mid-February and all the user needs to get started is to access to the download via the Tor browser and to register a Bitcoin address.

Once this is done, the Dot criminal coders allow a download with a getting started guide, including help which file types to use to distribute ransomware, and hints about the level of ransoms to charge in which countries. They provide a dashboard to keep track of the number and status of infections and the code is designed like normal modern software.

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