Cognizant falls victim to Maze ransomware attack

IT services firm admits incident caused "service disruption" for some of its clients

Code on screen with ransomware in red

IT services giant Cognizant has been hit by a ransomware attack that has led to "service disruptions" for some of its clients.

The company, which has around 300,000 employees and over $15 billion in revenue, said it was hit by the Maze ransomware group and is engaging with law enforcement authorities.

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“Cognizant can confirm that a security incident involving our internal systems, and causing service disruptions for some of our clients, is the result of a Maze ransomware attack,” the New Jersey-based company said in a statement.

“Our internal security teams, supplemented by leading cyber defence firms, are actively taking steps to contain this incident.”

Maze, previously known as “ChaCha ransomware”, was first discovered in May last year. It's not your typical data-encrypting ransomware, as it not only encrypts a victim's files but also threatens to publish this sensitive data if organisations do not respond to extortion demands.

“Ransomware attacks have pivoted to data theft before encrypting information as leverage to get organisations to pay the ransom," Chris Morales, head of Security Analytics at Vectra, told IT Pro.

"In particular, the Maze ransomware ring has begun publicly posting breached data on the internet and threatening full dumps of stolen data if victims don't pay for their files to be unencrypted. Maze has posted on their 'Mazenews' site alleged stolen data from victim organisations around the word, from many different industries – including multiple legal professional service providers.

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The FBI in December warned businesses of an increase in Maze-related ransomware incidents and urged security leaders to bolster protections in wake of a surge in attacks in the US and Europe. 

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However, Bleeping Computer, which first reported the attack on Cognizant, claims the Maze group has denied responsibility for the Cognizant hack. However, it notes that "Maze has been reticent to discuss attacks or victims until negotiations stall", so it's likely the hackers are keeping quiet to avoid complications in what they hope would be potential ransom payment.

The Cognizant attack comes a year after India based IT outsourcing giant Wipro was hit by a "multi-month" ransomware breach that saw hackers target the firm's IT systems and launch attacks on its clients.

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