Criminal hackers who locked computers and demanded ransoms suddenly apologized and unlocked everything

Julie Bort

In a surprising turn of events, the people who created TeslaCrypt, a kind of computer Trojan virus that locked certain Windows game files, and demanded money to restore them have closed up shop.

More than that, when a security researcher from ESET, a maker of antivirus software, asked them if they would release the key so anyone infected by their malware could unlock their files, they agreed.

They also announced "project closed" and apologized, reports the ESET blog.

The ESET researcher had noticed that over the past couple of months the TeslaCrypt virus had been used less and less.

The hackers who were distributing this malware had been switching over to a different type of ransomware, delivering CryptXXX instead, reports Bleeping Computer.

So the researcher figured, what the heck, since it looks like these folks are shutting down, maybe they'll share the key.

He posted a message on their money-collecting forum asking them to do that. And they did. Here's the reply:

The makers of TeslaCrypt ransomware announced that they have closed shop, apologized, and shared the key. ESET/Welivesecurity.com

ESET has now released a tool that will help anyone still infected with TeslaCrypt to unlock their files.

Please note: ESET warns that just because the TeslaCrypt folks appeared to grow a conscience and shut down doesn't mean that the world is safe from ransomware. Unfortunately, ransomware is so rampant that the FBI, in March, renewed warnings for computer users to beware.

Still, the lesson here is clear: You never know what helpful thing someone will do until you ask.