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Ransomware Admin is Refunding Victims Their Ransom Payments

The Ziggy ransomware administrator announced the end of the operation in early February of this year. Apparently, the threat actor had a guilty conscious and decided to publish all decryption keys for the ransomware. On March 19th, the administrator announced plans to return any money paid by victims of Ziggy ransomware. Although the administrator returned the ransoms, which are paid in bitcoin, it is likely they still make a profit due to the recent spike in bitcoin price. The Ziggy ransomware administrator told reporters that they lived in a third world country and the operation was financially motivated. The motivation to return the money and close the operation is likely driven by guilt, and the recent global law enforcement action against cyber threat actors.

Analyst Notes

Data theft, ransomware and other attacks continue to be a lucrative business for cyber criminals. Organizations must ensure employees are properly trained on best security practices. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is necessary to protect any account, especially email accounts of employees who have access to sensitive information. Cyber threat actors often target email accounts because access to a victim’s email account allows them to reset passwords to many other online systems easily. Passwords alone are not enough to protect sensitive information, especially if employees choose the same or similar passwords for multiple sites—criminals and government backed hackers alike often use lists of passwords leaked from other websites when they attempt to guess passwords for email accounts or remote access accounts. The Binary Defense Counterintelligence service monitors for leaked information, including passwords, associated with clients’ brand names and domain names. If a threat actor gains access to corporate network via a VPN or other remote access facility using an employee’s password, it can be difficult to detect the intrusion and distinguish the attacker’s activity from that of the employee whose account was compromised. To defend against such attacks, it’s important to monitor user account activity for patterns of behavior, and detect when employee accounts run unusual programs, attempt to access administrator accounts, or move laterally to other systems that they normally don’t access. Binary Defense’s Security Operations Task Force monitors clients’ workstations and servers 24/7 to detect attacks based on possible attacker behaviors and prevents intrusions in the early stages to keep companies from suffering major damage.