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Thursday, 16 May 2019 09:10

US firms offer ransomware recovery, but just pay to get data back

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US firms offer ransomware recovery, but just pay to get data back Pixabay

Two American companies that offer Windows ransomware recovery services have been accused of merely paying the ransom in order to recover clients' data, with the non-profit ProPublica saying the victims were charged extra for these services.

In a detailed report, ProPublica said the ransomware in question was known as SamSam and it had caused about US$30 million in damages across North America and the UK. Among the victims were the cities of Atlanta and Newark, New Jersey, the Port of San Diego and the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Centre in Los Angeles.

It said one company, New York-based Proven Data, had regularly made payments to the attackers behind SamSam, and said a former employee, Jonathan Storfer.

The SamSam ransomware was reportedly created by an Iranian duo and ProPublica said it had tracked four bitcoin payments made by Proven Data, from its wallet to one controlled by the attackers.

Proven Data had claimed that it would unlock data encrypted by ransomware using the "latest technology".

The second company accused of similar activities was MonsterCloud which is based in Florida. This firm, is is alleged, "also professes to use its own data recovery methods but instead pays ransoms, sometimes without informing victims such as local law enforcement agencies".

But there were other firms, such Covewire, which is based in Connecticut, which openly told clients that it would recover the data by making the ransom payment. The help it offered covered dealing in bitcoin and also handling communications with the attackers.

Proven Data chief executive Victor Congionti admitted that paying attackers was part of his company's standard procedure. MonsterCloud chief executive Zohar Pinhasi said his company’s data recovery solutions changed from case to case.

iTWire has contacted Proven Data and MonsterCloud for their take on the issue.

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Sam Varghese

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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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