Businesses around the world left reeling following a ransomware attack on Florida-based IT firm

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  • A ransomware attack at Florida-based IT firm Kaseya left businesses around the world scrambling.
  • Cybersecurity experts say the Russian-linked REvil ransomware gang appears to be behind the attack.
  • The REvil ransomware gang was blamed by the FBI for paralyzing meat packer JBS last month.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Businesses around the world rushed Saturday to contain a ransomware attack that has paralyzed their computer networks, a situation complicated in the U.S. by offices lightly staffed at the start of the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

It’s not yet known how many organizations have been hit by demands that they pay a ransom in order to get their systems working again. But some cybersecurity researchers predict the attack targeting customers of software supplier Kaseya could be one of the broadest ransomware attacks on record.

It follows a scourge of headline-grabbing attacks over recent months that have been a source of diplomatic tension between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin over whether Russia has become a safe haven for cybercriminal gangs.

Biden said Saturday he didn’t yet know for certain who was responsible but suggested that the U.S. would respond if Russia was found to have anything to do with it.

“If it is either with the knowledge of and or a consequence of Russia then I told Putin we will respond,” Biden said. “We’re not certain. The initial thinking was it was not the Russian government.”

Cybersecurity experts say the REvil gang, a major Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate, appears to be behind the attack that targeted the software company Kaseya, using its network-management package as a conduit to spread the ransomware through cloud-service providers.

“The number of victims here is already over a thousand and will likely reach into the tens of thousands,” said cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch of the Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank. “No other ransomware campaign comes even close in terms of impact.”

The cybersecurity firm ESET says there are victims in least 17 countries, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Kenya and Germany.

In Sweden, most of the grocery chain Coop’s 800 stores were unable to open because their cash registers weren’t working, according to SVT, the country’s public broadcaster. The Swedish State Railways and a major local pharmacy chain were also affected.

Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola said in a statement that the company believes it has identified the source of the vulnerability and will “release that patch as quickly as possible to get our customers back up and running.”

Voccola said fewer than 40 of Kaseya’s customers were known to be affected, but experts said the ransomware could still be affecting hundreds more companies that rely on Kaseya’s clients that provide broader IT services.

John Hammond of the security firm Huntress Labs said he was aware of a number of managed-services providers – companies that host IT infrastructure for multiple customers – being hit by the ransomware, which encrypts networks until the victims pay off attackers.

“It’s reasonable to think this could potentially be impacting thousands of small businesses,” said Hammond, basing his estimate on the service providers reaching out to his company for assistance and comments on Reddit showing how others are responding.

At least some victims appeared to be getting ransoms set at $45,000, considered a small demand but one that could quickly add up when sought from thousands of victims, said Brett Callow, a ransomware expert at the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft.

Callow said it’s not uncommon for sophisticated ransomware gangs to perform an audit after stealing a victim’s financial records to see what they can really pay, but that won’t be possible when there are so many victims to negotiate with.

“They just pitched the demand amount at a level most companies will be willing to pay,” he said.

Voccola said the problem is only affecting its “on-premise” customers, which means organizations running their own data centers. It’s not affecting its cloud-based services running software for customers, though Kaseya also shut down those servers as a precaution, he said.

The company added in a statement Saturday that “customers who experienced ransomware and receive a communication from the attackers should not click on any links — they may be weaponized.”

Gartner analyst Katell Thielemann said it’s clear that Kaseya quickly sprang to action, but it’s less clear whether their affected clients had the same level of preparedness.

“They reacted with an abundance of caution,” she said. “But the reality of this event is it was architected for maximum impact, combining a supply chain attack with a ransomware attack.”

Supply chain attacks are those that typically infiltrate widely used software and spread malware as it updates automatically.

Complicating the response is that it happened at the start of a major holiday weekend in the U.S., when most corporate IT teams aren’t fully staffed.

That could also leave those organizations unable to address other security vulnerabilities, such a dangerous Microsoft bug affecting software for print jobs, said James Shank, of threat intelligence firm Team Cymru.

“Customers of Kaseya are in the worst possible situation,” he said. “They’re racing against time to get the updates out on other critical bugs.”

Shank said “it’s reasonable to think that the timing was planned” by hackers for the holiday.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it was affecting hundreds of businesses and was “another reminder that the U.S. government must take the fight to these foreign cybercriminal syndicates” by investigating, disrupting and prosecuting them.

The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a statement that it is closely monitoring the situation and working with the FBI to collect more information about its impact.

CISA urged anyone who might be affected to “follow Kaseya’s guidance to shut down VSA servers immediately.” Kaseya runs what’s called a virtual system administrator, or VSA, that’s used to remotely manage and monitor a customer’s network.

The privately held Kaseya is based in Dublin, Ireland, with a U.S. headquarters in Miami.

REvil, the group most experts have tied to the attack, was the same ransomware provider that the FBI linked to an attack on JBS SA, a major global meat processor forced to pay a $11 million ransom, amid the Memorial Day holiday weekend in May.

Active since April 2019, the group 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 have said the most potent ransomware gangs are based in Russia and allied states and operate with Kremlin tolerance and sometimes collude with Russian security services.

Alperovitch said he believes the latest attack is financially motivated and not Kremlin-directed.

However, he said it shows that Putin “has not yet moved” on shutting down cybercriminals within Russia after Biden pressed him to do so at their June summit in Switzerland.

Asked about the attack during a trip to Michigan on Saturday, Biden said he had asked the intelligence community for a “deep dive” on what happened. He said he expected to know more by Sunday.

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AP reporters Frank Bajak in Boston, Eric Tucker in Washington and Josh Boak in Central Lake, Michigan contributed to this report.

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Coinbase pushes back against the theory it helped US authorities recover Colonial Pipeline ransom crypto

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  • Coinbase said it did not work with US authorities to recover the Colonial Pipeline crypto ransom.
  • Graphs circulating online seemed to show that the bitcoin ransom was sent via Coinbase servers.
  • The FBI recovered a big chunk of the $4.3 million paid by gaining access to the hackers’ wallet.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Coinbase’s chief security officer has denied the crypto exchange helped US authorities recover a big chunk of the $4.3 million crypto ransom paid to Colonial Pipeline hackers, after theories about its involvement circulated online.

Company CSO Philip Martin took to Twitter to respond to the claims that the crypto exchange had played a part in the Department of Justice and FBI seizing 63.7 bitcoins, worth $2.3 million, by unlocking a bitcoin wallet. Court filings showed authorities obtained a seizure warrant for the wallet, which contained funds paid to “Dark Side” hackers who shut down the US’s largest refined-oil-product pipeline in May.

“Coinbase was not the target of the warrant and did not receive the ransom or any part of the ransom at any point. We also have no evidence that the funds went through a Coinbase account/wallet,” Martin tweeted.

Various blockchain data graphs circulating on social media were interpreted as showing the bitcoin ransom was wired through Coinbase’s servers, which led to an outcry from Coinbase users and bitcoin fans.

Pointing to BitQuery graphs in particular, Martin said any reference to Coinbase on graphs and documents referred to “Coinbase” as a concept rather than the crypto exchange itself.

Further, Coinbase uses a “pooled hot wallet”, whereas the FBI was in possession of just one private key, which the crypto exchange could not provide, Martin explained.

The online uproar centered on complaints that collaboration with government agencies was against the spirit of cryptocurrencies, which fans take pride in being decentralized, private and an alternative to state-regulated finance.

The US authorities have yet to give an official explanation of how they were able to obtain the private key that gave them access to the digital wallet used by the Dark Side hackers, allowing them to seize back the majority of the payment.

“So how did they get the private key? Maybe some whiz-bang magic, but my guess would be it was some good ol’ fashioned police work to locate the target servers, and an MLAT request and/or some political pressure to get access.” Martin suggested.

One of regulators’ main concerns around crypto is its use by criminals to fuel illicit activities, and whether authorities need more tools to respond and handle such situations.

Bitcoin fell by more than 12% on Tuesday alongside most major cryptocurrencies after US authorities said they had been able to recover the ransom. It started to recover on Wednesday morning and was up 5.39% in the 24 hours to 6:42 am E.T. Bitcoin was last trading at $34,587.26.

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Up to one-fifth of US beef and pork capacity may be shut down after the ransomware attack on JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company

In this Oct. 12, 2020 file photo, a worker heads into the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo
In this Oct. 12, 2020 file photo, a worker heads into the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo

  • Brazilian meat processing giant JBS is the latest major firm to suffer a ransomware attack.
  • JBS has over 64,000 meatpackers in the US and is responsible for a fifth of beef and pork capacity.
  • The White House says the attack originated in Russia and that the FBI is investigating.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, has become the latest major firm to fall victim to a ransomware attack, bringing some production to a halt, the company said on Monday.

The Brazil-based meatpacker’s US operations are headquartered in Greeley, Colorado, and control an estimated one-fifth of the country’s slaughtering capacity for beef and pork. The company employs more than 64,000 workers in the US, many of whom are reporting cancelled shifts during the stoppage.

“On Sunday, May 30, JBS USA determined that it was the target of an organised cybersecurity attack, affecting some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems,” the company said in a Monday statement.

“Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers,” the statement said.

A White House spokesperson said JBS notified the US government about the attack, which is thought to have originated in Russia. The FBI is investigating, as well.

“Even one day of disruption will significantly impact the beef market and wholesale beef prices,” a livestock trade publication wrote, while analysts told Reuters that the disruption to JBS’s business could lead to higher prices for meat and potential shortages in some areas if the shutdowns continue.

On Tuesday, the US Department of Agriculture delayed its daily wholesale price report, citing “packer submission issues.” Agriculture markets rely on the data, but leaving JBS out of the report could reveal proprietary information about its competitors, Bloomberg reported.

Last month, a cyber attack on Colonial Pipeline’s billing system led to supply shocks across the southeastern US when the company chose to shut off service for several days. Colonial quickly paid the $4.4 million ransom to the hacker group Dark Side.

“This decision was not made lightly, however, one that had to be made,” Colonial CEO Joseph Blount said in a statement.

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