Cyber-extortion is a multibillion-dollar business managed by organised crime groups. Ransomware gangs are growing increasingly sophisticated, not just in terms of economic strategies, but also in their ability to pose as corporate entities while making blackmail demands.
These criminal raiders are attempting to establish themselves as legal businesses, and they’re beginning to act as such, synchronizing operations with multiple partners, providing 24/7 help desks operated by experts, and even branding themselves to boost their reputation.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts important data and files of its victims. The attacker then demands a ransom from the victim in exchange for restoring access to the data. Users are given information on how to obtain the decryption key by paying a charge. The charges can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars – sometimes paid in Bitcoin – to hackers.
Evidence Of Ransomware Cartels
To increase their reach, profit, eliminate competitors, frighten adversaries, and victims, or in this case, users, enterprising gangs frequently form cartels by forming alliances with other like-minded organisations. In the area of cyberattacks, an identical trend is taking place.
According to a report by Analyst1, various ransomware gangs, including Twisted Spider, Viking Spider, Wizard Spider, and Lockbit Gang, formed a cartel in May 2020 to coordinate assaults and data dumps, share intelligence, and infrastructure.
Some gang’s cartel-like behaviour are:
- They have a common infrastructure: Multiple gangs used command-and-control systems using the same IP addresses.
- They exchange victim information and access to leaked websites: One group steals the information, while another engages in extortion and publication.
- They publicly claim cartel affiliation: Several ransomware gangs produced news releases on the dark web proudly claiming cartel affiliation.
- They compare and contrast strategies: Ransomware gangs have been seen to have a consistent method of operation. For example, they all began using virtual machines in victim environments, a technique pioneered by Viking Spider.
Prevention of Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware gangs’ cartel-like behaviour highlights the possibility of what could happen next. To survive and develop while evading law enforcement, cartels could merge their assets, intelligence, equipment, and expertise. Not just that, but the government’s influence might push them to produce “anti-intelligence” regarding security measures, making them far more destructive than what they were before.
To avoid ransomware, individuals and businesses must maintain awareness of safety and establish best practices.
- Patch systems regularly: One of the leading causes of cybersecurity breaches is a lack of software updates. Systems must be inventoried, tested for vulnerabilities, and patched regularly.
- Always have a backup: Risk management and contingency planning are incomplete without backups. Ensure that backups are tested regularly and are separated from the main of the system. Since the bulk of ransomware operations steal information data, copies may not always be enough to protect businesses against extortion efforts.
- Continuously improve your information security: The majority of attacks start with a phishing scam, and studies show that frequent training in social control strategies can cut the risk of data breaches in half.
- Always have an incident management strategy on hand: Always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions combined with a very well incident management plan can help firms better manage cybercrime, reduce the impact of a security alert, and assist in speedier restoration.
- Use multifactor authentication (MFA) and improved password management: * Ensure that staff don’t repeat credentials and utilise web encryption software to upgrade their passwords regularly. Businesses should use MFA as an extra step in the verification and authentication of users.
Ransomware protection and surveillance is probably the best option, but it necessitates investing in access control, third-party digital knowledge, cyber insurance carriers with experience in the field, and antiphishing training.
If the computer is infected with ransomware, don’t give in to extortionists’ demands because payment of the ransom will merely foster the spread of ransomware. Instead, contact your local cyber crime team and cooperate with them throughout the inquiry.
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