Scale, details of massive ransomware attack emerge
This Feb 23, 2019, file photo shows the inside of a computer in Jersey City, New Jersey (Photo: AP)

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) — Cybersecurity teams worked feverishly yesterday to stem the impact of the single biggest global ransomware attack on record, with some details emerging about how the Russia-linked gang responsible breached the company whose software was the conduit.

An affiliate of the notorious REvil gang, best known for extorting $11 million from the meat-processor JBS after a Memorial Day attack, infected thousands of victims in at least 17 countries last Friday, largely through firms that remotely manage IT infrastructure for multiple customers, cybersecurity researchers said.

They reported ransom demands of up to $5 million.

The FBI said in a statement yesterday that it was investigating the attack along with the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, though, “the scale of this incident may make it so that we are unable to respond to each victim individually”.

President Joe Biden suggested last Saturday that the US would respond if it was determined that the Kremlin is at all involved. He said he had asked the intelligence community for a “deep dive” on what happened.

The attack comes less than a month after Biden pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop providing safe haven to REvil and other ransomware gangs whose unrelenting extortionary attacks the US deems a national security threat.

A broad array of businesses and public agencies were hit by the latest attack, apparently on all continents, including in financial services, travel and leisure and the public sector — though few large companies, the cybersecurity firm Sophos reported.

Ransomware criminals break into networks and sow malware that cripples networks on activation by scrambling all their data. Victims get a decoder key when they pay up.

The Swedish grocery chain Coop said most of its 800 stores would be closed for a second day yesterday because its cash register software supplier was crippled.

A Swedish pharmacy chain, gas station chain, the State railway and public broadcaster SVT were also hit.

In Germany, an unnamed IT services company told authorities several thousand of its customers were compromised, the news agency dpa reported.

Also among reported victims were two big Dutch IT services companies — VelzArt and Hoppenbrouwer Techniek. Most ransomware victims don't publicly report attacks or disclose if they've paid ransoms.

CEO Fred Voccola of the breached software company, Kaseya, estimated the victim number in the low thousands, mostly small businesses like “dental practices, architecture firms, plastic surgery centres, libraries, things like that.”

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