TECHNOLOGY

Scale, Details Of Massive Kaseya Ransomware Attack Emerge

Jul 5, 2021, 7:43 AM
FILE (Photo by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)...
FILE (Photo by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)

BOSTON (AP) — Cybersecurity teams worked feverishly Sunday 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 on Friday, largely through firms that remotely manage IT infrastructure for multiple customers, cybersecurity researchers said.

REvil was demanding ransoms of up to $5 million, the researchers said. But late Sunday it offered in a posting on its dark web site a universal decryptor software key that would unscramble all affected machines in exchange for $70 million in cryptocurrency.

Earlier, the FBI said in a statement that while it was investigating the attack its scale “may make it so that we are unable to respond to each victim individually.” Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger later issued a statement saying President Joe Biden had “directed the full resources of the government to investigate this incident” and urged all who believed they were compromised to alert the FBI.

Biden suggested Saturday the U.S. would respond if it was determined that the Kremlin is at all involved.

Less than a month ago, Biden pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop giving safe haven to REvil and other ransomware gangs whose unrelenting extortionary attacks the U.S. 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 infiltrate networks and sow malware that cripples them 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 Sunday because their 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 centers, libraries, things like that.”

Voccola said in an interview that only between 50-60 of the company’s 37,000 customers were compromised. But 70% were managed service providers who use the company’s hacked VSA software to manage multiple customers. It automates the installation of software and security updates and manages backups and other vital tasks.

Experts say it was no coincidence that REvil launched the attack at the start of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, knowing U.S. offices would be lightly staffed. Many victims may not learn of it until they are back at work on Monday. Most end users of managed service providers “have no idea” whose software keep their networks humming, said Voccola,

Kaseya said it sent a detection tool to nearly 900 customers on Saturday night.

The REvil offer to offer blanket decryption for all victims of the Kaseya attack in exchange for $70 million suggested its inability to cope with the sheer quantity of infected networks, said Allan Liska, an analyst with the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. Although analysts reported seeing demands of $5 million and $500,000 for bigger targets, it was apparently demanding $45,000 for most.

“This attack is a lot bigger than they expected and it is getting a lot of attention. It is in REvil’s interest to end it quickly,” said Liska. “This is a nightmare to manage.”

Analyst Brett Callow of Emsisoft said he suspects REvil is hoping insurers might crunch the numbers and determine the $70 million will be cheaper for them than extended downtime.

Sophisticated ransomware gangs on REvil’s level usually examine a victim’s financial records — and insurance policies if they can find them — from files they steal before activating the ransomware. The criminals then threaten to dump the stolen data online unless paid. In this attack, that appears not to have happened.

Dutch researchers said they alerted Miami-based Kaseya to the breach and said the criminals used a “zero day,” the industry term for a previous unknown security hole in software. Voccola would not confirm that or offer details of the breach — except to say that it was not phishing.

“The level of sophistication here was extraordinary,” he said.

When the cybersecurity firm Mandiant finishes its investigation, Voccola said he is confident it will show that the criminals didn’t just violate Kaseya code in breaking into his network but also exploited vulnerabilities in third-party software.

It was not the first ransomware attack to leverage managed services providers. In 2019, criminals hobbled the networks of 22 Texas municipalities through one. That same year, 400 U.S. dental practices were crippled in a separate attack.

One of the Dutch vulnerability researchers, Victor Gevers, said his team is worried about products like Kaseya’s VSA because of the total control of vast computing resources they can offer. “More and more of the products that are used to keep networks safe and secure are showing structural weaknesses,” he wrote in a blog Sunday.

The cybersecurity firm ESET identified victims in least 17 countries, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Indonesia, New Zealand and Kenya.

Kaseya says the attack only affected “on-premise” customers, organizations running their own data centers, as opposed to its cloud-based services that run software for customers. It also shut down those servers as a precaution, however.

Kaseya, which called on customers Friday to shut down their VSA servers immediately, said Sunday it hoped to have a patch in the next few days.

Active since April 2019, REvil provides ransomware-as-a-service, meaning it develops the network-paralyzing software and leases it to so-called affiliates who infect targets and earn the lion’s share of ransoms. U.S. officials say the most potent ransomware gangs are based in Russia and allied states and operate with Kremlin tolerance and sometimes collude with Russian security services.

Cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch of the Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank said that while he does not believe the Kaseya attack is Kremlin-directed, it shows that Putin “has not yet moved” on shutting down cybercriminals.

___

AP reporters Eric Tucker in Washington, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Jari Tanner in Helsinki and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Technology

FILE: In this photo illustration, the TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 ...
Brian Fung, CNN

FCC commissioner calls on Apple, Google to remove TikTok from app stores

A member of the Federal Communications Commission is renewing calls for Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores, citing national security concerns surrounding TikTok's Chinese-based parent company, ByteDance.
5 days ago
FILE: The Instagram app logo is displayed on an iPhone on Aug. 3, 2016, in London, England.  (Photo...
Rachel Metz, CNN Business

Instagram is testing AI that verifies your age with a selfie scan. It’s not perfect

Instagram is testing new ways to verify its youngest users' ages, including by using artificial intelligence that analyzes a photo and estimates how old the user is.
8 days ago
An assortment of newly launched devices, including, an "Echo Input," "Echo Show, "Echo Plus," "Echo...
Associated Press

Amazon’s Alexa could soon mimic voice of dead relatives

Amazon’s Alexa might soon replicate the voice of family members - even if they’re dead.
12 days ago
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are all making news with wild up-and-down swings in value. (File...
Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Congress considers crypto legislation: What you need to know

It's been a rough year for cryptocurrencies. Prices reached record heights this past November, but by last week, crypto has lost $2 trillion of its market value. Now, there's a new plan for the Feds to regulate cryptocurrencies.
15 days ago
FILE: Tesla head Elon Musk talks to the press as he arrives to to have a look at the construction s...
Associated Press

Musk aims to ease concerns in address to Twitter workers

In an unusual move for what’s been an unusual takeover bid for Twitter by the world’s richest man, Tesla CEO Elon Musk will address the social platform’s employees Thursday, even though his $44 billion offer has not yet been completed.
19 days ago
Alejandro Núñez Vicente's Chaise Longue Airplane Seat concept started small scale last year, as a...
Francesca Street, CNN

Here’s what it might be like to travel on a double decker airplane seat

Flying economy for any extended period of time is an experience usually endured rather than enjoyed, but one airplane seat designer reckons his design could revolutionize budget travel.
20 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Scale, Details Of Massive Kaseya Ransomware Attack Emerge