Menu
With few options, companies pay hush money to data thieves

With few options, companies pay hush money to data thieves

Companies can face ruin if sensitive data is dumped on the Internet

There's a disturbing new angle to cyberattacks that has become more common over the last year, and it is proving costly for organizations: extortion.

Over the last year, companies have at times paid more than US$1 million in hush money to cyberattackers who have stolen their sensitive data and threatened to release it online, said Charles Carmakal, a vice president with Mandiant, the computer forensics unit of FireEye, in an interview on Wednesday.

"This is where a human adversary has deliberately targeted an organization, has stolen data, has reviewed that data and understands the value of it," Carmakal said. "We have seen seven-figure payouts by organizations that are afraid for that data to be published."

Mandiant outlined such attacks in a new report it issued on Thursday, saying in some cases, executives have been also taunted by hackers.

Extortion attacks are more sophisticated than so-called ransomware such as Cryptolocker, the malware that encrypts a computer's files and where payment is in bitcoin.

While ransomware attacks can be devastating in their bluntness, the payment demanded usually is a few hundred dollars, although some attacks have succeeded in extracting much more.

The extortion attacks, however, are far more meticulous and could be potentially more damaging, especially to a large company. Carmakal said some of the data, if publicly revealed, could potentially put a company out of business.

So "the reality is lots of people are paying," he said.

For Mandiant, which has investigated large data breaches at Target, Home Depot and Anthem, it can be tough to advise an organization about what course of action to take, Carmakal said.

The attackers often don't give much time to allow for a full forensics review to figure out if the hackers are bluffing. And there are fakers looking for an easy payout.

"What we need is proof that someone actually has access to data," Carmakal said. "We get them to send a sample, or we do as quick an investigation as we can."

If forensic artifacts reveal that someone has been sneaking around, next comes a very hard decision: even if a company pays, there's no guarantee that the attackers won't release the data anyway.

"There's absolutely a risk in not paying, and there's a risk in paying," Carmakal said. "Everybody's goal is that they pay the ransom, and the attackers go away and they delete data, but you will never get the confirmation that you want that the attackers have deleted the data."

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags data thievessecurity

Featured

Slideshows

Reseller News launches inaugural Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News launches inaugural Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2015 and 2016 inductees - Darryl Swann, Dave Rosenberg, Gary Bigwood, Keith Watson, Mike Hill and Scott Green - to the inaugural Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed how the channel can collectively work together to benefit New Zealand, the Kiwi skills shortage and the future of the industry. Photos by Maria Stefina.

Reseller News launches inaugural Hall of Fame lunch
Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel

​As the channel changes and industry voices deepen, the need for clarity and insight heightens. Market misconceptions talk of an “under pressure” distribution space, with competitors in that fateful “race for relevance” across New Zealand. Amidst the cliched assumptions however, distribution is once again showing its strength, as a force to be listened to, rather than questioned. Traditionally, the role was born out of a need for vendors and resellers to find one another, acting as a bridge between the testing lab and the marketplace. Yet despite new technologies and business approaches shaking the channel to its very core, distributors remain tied to the epicentre - providing the voice of reason amidst a seismic industry shift. In looking across both sides of the vendor and partner fences, the middle concept of the three-tier chain remains centrally placed to understand the metrics of two differing worlds, as the continual pulse checkers of the local channel. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable, in association with Dicker Data and rhipe, examined the pivotal role of distribution in understanding the health of the channel, educating from the epicentre as the market transforms at a rapid rate.

Educating from the epicentre - Why distributors are the pulse checkers of the channel
Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017

Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017

After Hours made a welcome return to the channel social calendar last night, with a bumper crowd of distributors, vendors and resellers descending on The Jefferson in Auckland to kickstart 2017. Photos by Maria Stefina.

Kiwi channel reunites as After Hours kicks off 2017
Show Comments