Wednesday, 15 September 2021 10:30

Ransomware gang warns of data destruction if ransom negotiators called in Featured

Ransomware gang warns of data destruction if ransom negotiators called in Pixabay

A ransomware gang has warned victims that any data that has been exfiltrated from their networks during attacks would be destroyed were they to contact companies to negotiate ransom payments.

The Grief ransomware group, which has morphed from the older DoppelPaymer group, posted a notice on its website on the dark web, claiming that there were only two parties that were bothered about the data that was pilfered during an attack: the affected entity and the ransomware gang.

"Police, FBI and Recovery Company™. Who cares about the data in a ransom case?" the group asked.

The Grief operators said they were merely commenting on observations by the Ragnar Locker ransomware group recently. In those observations, the Ragnar Locker group argued that the real "bad guys" in any ransomware incident were companies that offered recovery service and negotiators.

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The Grief gang also referred to a post by anti-virus industry veteran Graham Cluley, who reported on the Ragnar Locker comments, citing it as a common reaction in the media.

Cluley wrote: "There’s only one reason why the Ragnar Locker group would be telling its victims not to bring in ransomware recovery firms and the police – it’s worried that it’s hurting business."

The Grief gang poured scorn on companies that offered recovery services, dismissing them as part of a business model where the recovery company earns its money "just because it exists".

And it added: "We wanna play a game. If we see professional negotiator from Recovery Company™ - we will just destroy the data."

The Grief statement claimed this would change nothing as far as the payment to the recovery company was concerned.

"What will this Recovery Companies™ earn when no ransom amount is set and data simply destroyed with zero chance of recovery? We think - millions of dollars. Clients will bring money for nothing. As usual," it concluded.

Contacted for comment, ransomware threat researcher Brett Callow said: "Incident response firms, negotiators and law enforcement can help victims avoid paying needlessly - because for example, the ransomware in question has buggy encryption that can be broken - so it's not at all surprising the gangs don't want them called in.

"They can help in multiple other ways too, and help guide victims through complex and messy situations in a way that minimises their costs and speeds up their recovery time. Bottom line: you should call in professional help and listen to their advice, not the advice of the extortionists."

Callow, who works for the New Zealand-headquartered security outfit Emsisoft, added: "For Grief, it's especially important that victims don't involve incident responders. Grief is one of Evil Corp's brands and Evil Corp is subject to OFAC sanctions, meaning US entities are generally prohibited from transacting with them, and responders will counsel victims accordingly."

OFAC is the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the US Treasury Department.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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