The Russian government said today it arrested 14 people accused of working for “REvil,” a particularly aggressive ransomware group that has extorted hundreds of millions of dollars from victim organizations. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said the actions were taken in response to a request from U.S. officials, but many experts believe the crackdown is part of an effort to reduce tensions over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to station 100,000 troops along the nation’s border with Ukraine.
In a great many ransomware attacks, the criminals who pillage the victim’s network are not the same crooks who gained the initial access to the victim organization. More commonly, the infected PC or stolen VPN credentials the gang used to break in were purchased from a cybercriminal middleman known as an initial access broker. This post examines some of the clues left behind by Wazawaka, the handle chosen by a major access broker in the Russian-speaking cybercrime scene.
The accounting firm PricewatersCoopers recently published lessons learned from the disruptive and costly ransomware attack in May 2021 on Ireland’s public health system. The unusually candid post-mortem found that nearly two months elapsed between the initial intrusion and the launching of the ransomware. It also found affected hospitals had tens of thousand of outdated Windows 7 systems, and that the health system’s IT administrators failed to respond to multiple warning signs that a massive attack was imminent.
A 31-year-old Canadian man has been arrested and charged with fraud in connection with numerous ransomware attacks against businesses, government agencies and private citizens throughout Canada and the United States. Canadian authorities describe him as “the most prolific cybercriminal we’ve identified in Canada,” but so far they’ve released few other details about the investigation or the defendant. Helpfully, an email address and nickname apparently connected to the accused offer some additional clues.
Rarely do cybercriminal gangs that deploy ransomware gain the initial access to the target themselves. More commonly, that access is purchased from a cybercriminal broker who specializes in stealing remote access credentials — such as usernames and passwords needed to remotely connect to the target’s network. In this post we’ll look at the clues left behind by “Babam,” the handle chosen by a cybercriminal who has sold such access to ransomware groups on many occasions over the past few years.
In August, KrebsOnSecurity warned that scammers were contacting people and asking them to unleash ransomware inside their employer’s network, in exchange for a percentage of any ransom amount paid by the victim company. This week, authorities in Nigeria arrested a suspect in connection with the scheme — a young man who said he was trying to save up money to help fund a new social network.
The U.S. Department of Justice said today it arrested a Ukrainian man who deployed ransomware on behalf of the REvil ransomware gang, a Russian cybercriminal collective that has extorted hundreds of millions from victim organizations. The DOJ also said it had seized $6.1 million in cryptocurrency sent to another REvil affiliate, and that the State Department is now offering up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest of any key leaders of REvil.
The Conti ransomware affiliate program appears to have altered its business plan recently. Organizations infected with Conti’s malware who refuse to negotiate a ransom payment are added to Conti’s victim shaming blog, where confidential files stolen from victims may be published or sold. But sometime over the past 48 hours, the cybercriminal syndicate updated its victim shaming blog to indicate that it is now selling access to many of the organizations it has hacked.
It’s nice when ransomware gangs have their bitcoin stolen, malware servers shut down, or are otherwise forced to disband. We hang on to these occasional victories because history tells us that most ransomware moneymaking collectives don’t go away so much as reinvent themselves under a new name, with new rules, targets and weaponry. Indeed, some of the most destructive and costly ransomware groups are now in their third incarnation over as many years.
Reinvention is a basic survival skill in the cybercrime business. Among the oldest tricks in the book is to fake one’s demise or retirement and invent a new identity. A key goal of such subterfuge is to throw investigators off the scent or to temporarily direct their attention elsewhere.
Cybercriminal syndicates also perform similar disappearing acts whenever it suits them. These organizational reboots are an opportunity for ransomware program leaders to set new ground rules for their members — such as which types of victims aren’t allowed (e.g., hospitals, governments, critical infrastructure), or how much of a ransom payment an affiliate should expect for bringing the group access to a new victim network.