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Ransomware Groups are Enlisting Breached Individuals to Persuade Firms to Pay Up

Ransomware groups are using direct contact tactics as extra leverage for victims to pay up.

 

According to recent reports, attackers are utilising stolen data to contact individuals who have been compromised in the attack (through social media, email, or phone). These direct contact strategies are being used by ransomware gangs as additional leverage to get victims to pay up. They call employees or customers whose data was compromised in the attack and urge them to persuade the victim to pay up, threatening them with the release of their personal information if they do not. 

NBC News featured a story on a parent whose child attended a school run by a district that was the target of a ransomware attack. The attackers emailed the parent, asking him to put pressure on the district to pay up, or else all of the exfiltrated materials, including information on him and his son, will be posted on the dark web. 

According to the person interviewed by NBC, the district did not notify parents or many staff members that they had been the victims of an attack, at least not before the assailants established contact with them. The attackers exploit whatever contact information they can obtain, such as employee directories or customer databases, to identify individuals to pressure. 

Allen ISD was the victim of a cyberattack in September 2021 and was afterward the target of attempted extortion by the perpetrators. Allen ISD, located roughly 30 miles north of Dallas, Texas, educates nearly 22,000 K-12 students. Following consultation with external cybersecurity experts, school administrators decided to refuse to pay the hackers' demands, even telling local media that there was no indication that data had been exfiltrated. Despite the fact that the ransomware gang claimed to have collected personal information from district children, families, and staff and sought to extort millions of dollars from Allen ISD. 

Another strategy used by ransomware attackers is to contact employees at a firm during the reconnaissance stages of an assault to see if they can bypass the infiltration stages by exploiting an insider threat. Insider threats are one of a few non-digital threats that have plagued businesses of all sizes to date. 

Insider threats represent a quarter of the eight main cybersecurity risks that significantly affect the corporate and public sectors, according to the Osterman Research white paper White Hat, Black Hat, and the Emergence of the Gray Hat: The True Costs of Cybercrime. 

According to a new survey conducted by identity protection firm Hitachi ID Systems, 65% of surveyed IT and security executives or their staff had been contacted to aid in ransomware cyberattacks. This marks a 17% increase over a similar survey conducted a year ago. The attackers used email and social media to contact employees in the majority of cases, while phone calls accounted for 27% of their approach efforts, a direct and brazen method of communication.
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