A Winlocker Trojan is a malware infection that does not allow its victims to access their machines. As its name indicates, a Winlocker effectively locks Windows, preventing the computer user from accessing their desktop, files or applications. Winlockers of any kind are severe threats to your computer and are responsible for infecting millions of computer systems around the world. A Winlocker is usually used as part of a scam that involves extracting some kind of ransom from the victim. If you cannot access your desktop and instead find that your computer displays a message of some kind urging you to pay for the right to use your computer, it is highly likely that a Winlocker Trojan has infected your computer.
Common Scams Associated with Winlocker Infections
There are different scams that use a Winlocker component in their attacks. Below, we've listed some common tactics criminals use to monetize a Winlocker infection:
- By far, the most common scam involving Winlockers is the Police Ransomware Trojan scam. Once the victim's computer has been blocked by the Winlocker, these Trojans display a fake message from the police that tells the victim that the computer was blocked by the police because it was involved in illegal activities (such as viewing forbidden pornographic material or distributing copyrighted content). The Police Ransomware Trojan message then intimidates the victim with a threat of jail time lest a fine of hundreds of Euros or dollars (depending on the location of the attack) is paid immediately using a money transfer service.
- Another scam involving Winlockers that ESG malware researchers have observed involves displaying a fake error message from Windows or Microsoft. When the victim attempts to access the infected computer, the Winlocker Trojan displays a message that is mocked up to imitate system alerts such as the infamous Windows 'Blue Screen of Death.' This message will claim that the infected computer was blocked by Microsoft because it was using a pirated version of Windows and then, like its Police Ransomware Trojan counterparts, offers to 'authenticate' the victim's version of Windows in exchange for a fee of several hundred Euros or dollars.
- One third Winlocker scam that has been observed cynically states that the victim's computer has been infected with malware and then simply demands a ransom in order to unlock the infected computer.
It is crucial to observe that paying a Winlocker's fine will almost never remove the infection or allow the victim to regain access to the infected machine