Disruptionware VII: The Evolution of Disruptionware and the Growth of Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)

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I have written multiple times about the danger of disruptionware to both Information Technology (IT) networks as well as Operational Technologies (OT) networks of victims globally. As discussed here, many different nefarious tools make up the disruptionware “tool kit.” These tools include, but are not limited to:

  • Ransomware
  • Wipers
  • Bricking capabilities tools
  • Automated components
  • Data exfiltration tools
  • Network reconnaissance tools

The most well-known and most used of all these tools is ransomware malware. Ransomware attacks have grown exponentially over the past few years. Dozens of ransomware gangs are launching ransomware attacks and terrorizing and extorting businesses throughout the world. This has included specific attacks against the U.S. energy sector as well as U.S. infrastructure projects.

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Kaseya: The Latest High-Profile Ransomware Attack

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On July 2, 2021, Kaseya Ltd., a Florida-based firm that provides software tools to thousands of primarily small and mid-sized businesses, became the latest victim of a high-profile ransomware attack. The attack is believed to have affected as many as 1,500 of Kaseya’s customers throughout the world, including at least 200 businesses in the United States. The attackers, who have claimed association with the Russia-linked REvil ransomware gang, have demanded an astronomical $70 million ransom to restore services for affected businesses.

The Kaseya attack was particularly devastating and effective because it was a supply chain attack, meaning it targeted a type of software that many other companies use to manage and distribute software updates. Thus, the attack not only affected Kaseya, but also potentially all of its customers.

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Department of Homeland Security Announces New Cybersecurity Requirements for Pipelines

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a new Security Directive requiring companies in the pipeline sector “to better identify, protect against, and respond to” cyber threats. Among other things, the Security Directive requires pipeline operators to report cyberattacks against their pipelines to DHS. This new requirement replaces the voluntary reporting guidelines that had been in place since 2010.

The new Security Directive is a response to the May 2021 ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline that shut down much of the oil and gas distribution to the East Coast of the United States for approximately six days. According to various media reports, Colonial Pipeline ultimately elected to pay a Russian ransomware gang that claimed responsibility for the attack over four million dollars to re-open the crippled pipeline.

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Federal Legislation Considers Banning Ransom Payments to Hackers

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The year 2021 continues to reveal an alarming rise in ransomware attacks. Two of the most notable of such attacks include the ransomware attack on CNA Financial Corp., with resulting payment of $40 million in ransom, and the attack on Colonial Pipeline Co., with a ransom payment of $4.4 million.

With these two recent ransomware attacks—and subsequent payments—receiving massive publicity, congressional law makers have begun to question whether ransom payments should be permitted or remain legal, or if federal law makers should step in to prohibit such ransom payments as a means to curtail these forms of attacks. Although no bill taking that approach has been introduced yet, recent discussions of such a law have given rise to debate on the issue.

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Ransomware Payments May Violate Sanctions Laws, U.S. Treasury Department Warns

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Ransomware attacks are on the rise in the wake of COVID-19, but attack victims — and third parties who assist them — could unknowingly be in violation of federal law. A new advisory from the U.S. Department of the Treasury warns that ransom payments to sanctioned individuals or entities may result in significant criminal or civil liability. Companies should closely review the details of this advisory to minimize the risk of violating the U.S. sanctions laws if they are victimized by a ransomware attack.

For the full alert, visit the Faegre Drinker website.

OCR Responds to Rise in Health Care Cyberattacks

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After recent WannaCry ransomware and Petya/notPetya malware attacks exposed the data security vulnerabilities of health care organizations and pharmaceutical companies globally, the Department of Health and Human Services and Office for Civil Rights have rolled out resources to prevent future attacks. The OCR’s resources, such as its Quick-Response Checklist, infographic and informational newsletter, are meant to support health care organizations every step of the way, from planning and contingency plans to response and mitigation procedures.

We’ve outlined some of the key points in the OCR and HHS documents in this recent alert.