Alltech IT Solutions Blog

Is it Wrong to Purchase Access to Your Own Data?

Is it Wrong to Purchase Access to Your Own Data?

Ransomware is a contender for the favorite method of attack for hackers. If you think about it, ransomware presents a no-loss situation. Either the victim pays the ransom and the hackers laugh all the way to the bank, or they move on to the next target and give them the same ultimatum.

The SamSam Scenario

The SamSam outbreak, which began in 2015 and continued until 2018, caused over $30,000,000 in damages across 200 entities, mostly due to the fact that it took down a couple of important municipalities, including the cities of Atlanta and Newark, the port of San Diego, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and medical records across the nation. In the case of Newark, the ransomware hackers demanded that the victims pay up within one week using Bitcoin. At that time, the attackers would then render the files useless.

In November of 2018, then deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein announced that two Iranian men had been indicted on fraud charges by the United States Department of Justice. They had allegedly developed the SamSam strain and carried out attacks using it. Considering the fact that many of the targets were public agencies responsible for addressing disasters and other dangerous incidents, it was reasonable to assume that these actions could have led to considerable harm to innocent people. Those responsible for these threats were never apprehended.

How Some Cybersecurity Firms Pay the Ransoms

Jonathan Storfer, a former employee of Proven Data Recovery in Elmsford, New York, regularly made ransomware payments to SamSam hackers for over a year. These payments were traced by ProPublica, which found that the payments made from 2017-to-2018 went from an online wallet controlled by Proven Data, through up to 12 Bitcoin addresses, to a wallet controlled by the perpetrators. He had this to say about the incident:

“I would not be surprised if a significant amount of ransomware both funded terrorism and also organized crime… So, the question is, every time that we get hit by SamSam, and every time we facilitate a payment – and here’s where it gets really dicey – does that mean we are technically funding terrorism?”

Proven Data claims to assist ransomware victims with recovering their files using the latest technology, but according to Storfer and the FBI, the reality of the situation is that Proven Data is paying ransoms to obtain the decryption tools needed by the clients. Storfer even states that the firm had such a business-like relationship with the hackers that they would recommend victims go to Proven Data to recover their files. Sounds a little fishy, if nothing else.

Another Florida-based firm called MonsterCloud used similar strategies, paying the ransoms without notifying victims, then adding an upcharge to the ransom payment.

But where is the money for these payments coming from? In the case of SamSam, many victims received government funding, meaning that the bill was effectively footed by the United States taxpayers.

Differing Accounts from Proven Data Recovery

Proven Data provides the following disclaimer on their website:

“[PROVEN DATA] DOES NOT CONDONE OR SUPPORT PAYING THE PERPETRATOR’S DEMANDS AS THEY MAY BE USED TO SUPPORT OTHER NEFARIOUS CRIMINAL ACTIVITY, AND THERE IS NEVER ANY GUARANTEE TO OBTAIN THE KEYS, OR IF OBTAINED, THEY MAY NOT WORK. UNFORTUNATELY, SOME CASES MAY REQUIRE THE PAYMENT OF THE DEMAND IN HOPES OF OBTAINING THE MEANS TO DECRYPT YOUR DATA. AS A LAST RESORT OPTION, [PROVEN DATA] RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PAY THE DEMAND FOR THE PURPOSE OF RESTORING BUSINESS FUNCTIONALITY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. THE CLIENT ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THIS WILL BE AN OPTION EXPLORED BY [PROVEN DATA] IF ALL OTHER CONVENTIONAL METHODS ARE NOT POSSIBLE.”

According to the company’s chief executive, Victor Congionti, their actual operating procedures differ from this statement. If a decryption key is already available (indicating that a hacker utilized an outdated version of their attack), Proven Data defaults to paying the ransom. In fact, they are open with their clients about doing this. According to Congionti, the SamSam attackers were paid by the direction of their clients, but Proven Data ceased interactions with them upon the discovery that they were dealing with Irani nationals.

Should Your Business Pay the Ransom?

Congionti would argue yes. In his words, “It is easy to take the position that no one should pay a ransom in a ransomware attack because such payments encourage future ransomware attacks. It is much harder, however, to take that position when it is your data that has been encrypted and the future of your company and all of the jobs of your employees are in peril. It is a classic moral dilemma.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s stance on this issue seems to vary. One FBI spokesperson says that paying a ransom “encourages continued criminal activity, leads to other victimizations, and can be used to facilitate serious crimes.” However, 2015 news reports quoted an assistant special agent with the FBI’s cyber program saying that they “often advise people to just pay the ransom.”

We argue that you should never pay a cybercriminal’s ransom. We don’t know how some people sleep at night knowing that they have funded further attacks. Taking a proactive approach to network security can deter you from even needing to make a payment in the first place. Furthermore, a data backup solution means that you can just retroactively restore your data to a point when it wasn’t struck by a ransomware attack.

To learn more about how we can help your business keep itself safe, reach out to us at 954-628-3770.

Tip of the Week: Simplify Your Day at Work
Hack Enabled by NSA-Developed Tool
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Tuesday, September 17 2019

Captcha Image

Mobile? Grab this Article!

QR-Code dieser Seite

Tag Cloud

Spam Windows Data Management Edge Mobile Device Analytics GDPR Human Resources Windows 7 Online Shopping Plug-In Error Files Information Technology Saving Money Telecommute Data Protection Cloud Chrome OS Office Tips Video Games Emoji Microsoft Teams VoIp Twitter Alerts Remote Monitoring and Management Worker Data Security Current Events Access Updates Internet Bitcoin Employee-Employer Relationship Machine Learning Network Attached Storage Technology Tech Term Cybersecurity Remote Control Staffing National Security Productivity iPhone Virus Remote Computing Going Green Access Control Windows XP Spyware Antivirus Backup Gadget Workers Tablet Innovation HIPAA Smart Technology Tech Terms Instagram Recovery e-waste Value A.I. Remote Monitoring Health Millennials Productivity Leadership Scheduling Remote Support Cables Avoiding Downtime Ink Word Marketing Paperless Office Gadgets Cloud Computing Maintenance Net Neutrality User Tips Microsoft Spotify Environment Alert Password Voice over Internet Protocol Phone System WhatsApp Knowledge HP Outlook Wireless Charging Google Maps Business Continuity Automobile Dark Web Specifications Webcam Business Employer-Employee Relationship Wireless SaaS PowerPoint User Tip Emergency Tech Support G Suite RAM Reporting Yahoo Tactics Telecommuting Display Email Management Storage Cybercrime Managed IT Service Connectivity Data Recovery Cabling Gmail Training Unified Communications Multi-Factor Security Employer Employee Relationship Business Computing App Email WiFi Server Computers Certification Taskbar Mobile Devices Business Technology Best Practices Operating System Websites Authentication Privacy Security Document Management Hosted Solutions Small Business Biometrics Healthcare Business Management WannaCry Physical Security Data Breach Two-factor Authentication Software Shortcut instant Messaging Congratulations Passwords Benchmarks Retail Scam Browser Content Filtering Google Drive Hybrid Cloud Data loss Voice over IP Thank You Upgrade Backup and Disaster Recovery Video Hard Drives Workplace Tips Money Printing Collaboration Windows 10 Credit Cards Server Management Hosted Solution IT Support Work/Life Balance File Sharing Technology Tips Education Chrome Data IT budget Synergy Mobile Device Management Automation Bring Your Own Device IaaS Information Personal Information Sales Windows 10 Sports Downloads Users SSD Wireless Internet The Internet of Things Electronic Health Records Cost Management Budget Touchscreen Android Cortana eWaste Financial disposal Smartphones User Security Telephone System Data Backup HaaS Risk Management Regulation Employees BDR Scalability Vendor Management Help Desk Dark Data Troubleshooting Applications Computer Care Law Enforcement Vulnerabilities Virtualization Website Security Cameras Holiday Communications Computer Paper Facebook Staff Patch Management Vulnerability Search Hacking Amazon Freedom of Information Communication Cleaning Malware BYOD VPN Microsoft Office 365 News Internet of Things Router Managed IT Comparison E-Commerce Spam Blocking Phishing Threat Save Money Proactive IT Managed Service Provider Battery Miscellaneous Outsourced IT Lead Generation Company Culture Time Management Samsung Profitability Safety Cryptocurrency Laptop VoIP Database Virtual Assistant Compliance Hackers Movies Tip of the Week Big Data Travel Printer Server Network Security Processors Wearables Entertainment Quick Tips Copy OneNote Printers Encryption Recycling Networking How To Authorization Managing Stress Update Social Media Television Customer Service Disaster Recovery Dongle Payment Tip of the week DDoS Microsoft Office CrashOverride Artificial Intelligence Eliminating Downtime Hacker Hardware Paste Trends IT Management Processor Printer Settings Hard Drive Inventory Managed Service Solid State Drive Hiring/Firing Wi-Fi Managed IT Services Telephone Systems Streaming Media IT Support Office 365 Conferencing Blockchain Politics Botnet Hard Disk Drive Business Intelligence Medical IT Google Licensing Payment Cards Efficiency Live Streaming Network Bandwidth Government Gaming Console Autocorrect Smartphone Office Windows Server 2008 R2 Batteries Unified Threat Management Digital Apple IT Services Telephony Mobility Mobile Security eCommerce Analysis Ransomware Managed IT Services Excel Apps Internet Explorer