Ransomware operators in turmoil after Colonial Pipeline backlash

US authorities seize DarkSide’s assets while a widely-used cyber crime forum cuts ties with ransomware groups

The operators behind the ransomware attack that took down the Colonial Pipeline last week claim their infrastructure has been taken offline, and that they will cease their ransomware as a service (RaaS) programme. 

Last week, DarkSide hackers attacked Colonial Pipeline, forcing the operator to suspend 5,500 miles of pipeline between Texas and New York and disrupting the fuel supply to large swathes of the US east coast. They also took 100GB of data from the network before locking computers and demanding payment in a double extortion attempt. 

Amid reports that Colonial Pipeline paid the hackers $5 million (roughly £3.5 million) to restore data and services, DarkSide released a statement rowing back on the attack, expressing regret, and insisting the only motive was financial, not geopolitical.

The operators have now claimed they would immediately cease operations of their RaaS scheme, issuing decryptors to all targets they attacked, alongside the promise of compensation, according to Intel 471.

The group also shared a message with their affiliates claiming that a public portion of their infrastructure had been disrupted by an unnamed law enforcement agency. DarkSide’s name-and-shame blog, ransom collection site and breach data delivery network were all seized, while funds from their cryptocurrency wallet were siphoned away.

The backlash against the Colonial Pipeline attack has spread, with another prominent group, Babuk, also stepping down from ransomware. The group handed its ransomware source code to “another team” with the aim of continuing this work under a new brand, while Babuk would continue to run a name-and-shame blog.  

Meanwhile, the administrators for XSS, a widely-used Russian cyber crime forum, have announced an immediate ban of all ransomware advertising and activity, with the promotion of services or related discussions also prohibited. 

An admin explained the decision by claiming there’s “too much PR”, and that the forum had “accumulated a critical mass of nonsense”, according to DataBreaches.net.

Related Resource

2021 state of email security report: Ransomware on the rise

Securing the enterprise in the COVID world

2021 state of email security report: Ransomware on the rise - whitepaper from MimecastDownload now

Almost immediately after, another popular cyber crime site, Exploit.in, followed suit and announced that ransomware-related chatter and activity would be banned. 

Several other highly prominent groups have reacted to the fallout by announcing rule changes to their organisation, effectively clamping down on the free reign that affiliates have had in the organisation they target. 

REvil, for example, has banned affiliates from targeting government, healthcare, educational and charitable organisations. All targets must also be pre-approved by the ransomware operators prior to deployment. 

“Intel 471 believes that all of these actions can be tied directly to the reaction related to the high-profile ransomware attacks covered by the media this week,” the firm said in a blog post. “However, a strong caveat should be applied to these developments: it’s likely that these ransomware operators are trying to retreat from the spotlight more than suddenly discovering the error of their ways.

“A number of the operators will most likely operate in their own close-knit groups, resurfacing under new names and updated ransomware variants. Additionally, the operators will have to find a new way to “wash” the cryptocurrency they earn from ransoms.”

Featured Resources

Defeating ransomware with unified security from WatchGuard

How SMBs can defend against the onslaught of ransomware attacks

Free download

The IT expert’s guide to AI and content management

How artificial intelligence and machine learning could be critical to your business

Free download

The path to CX excellence

Four stages to thrive in the experience economy

Free download

Becoming an experience-based business

Your blueprint for a strong digital foundation

Free download

Recommended

One-in-seven Nasdaq-100 companies ranked as highly susceptible to a ransomware attack
cyber crime

One-in-seven Nasdaq-100 companies ranked as highly susceptible to a ransomware attack

16 Sep 2021
Large US businesses are hackers' ideal ransomware targets
ransomware

Large US businesses are hackers' ideal ransomware targets

7 Sep 2021
Criminals caught trying to recruit insiders to plant ransomware
ransomware

Criminals caught trying to recruit insiders to plant ransomware

20 Aug 2021
Average ransomware payouts nearly double in a year
ransomware

Average ransomware payouts nearly double in a year

9 Aug 2021

Most Popular

What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

8 Sep 2021
Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit
exploits

Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit

14 Sep 2021
Google takes down map showing homes of 111,000 Guntrader customers
data breaches

Google takes down map showing homes of 111,000 Guntrader customers

2 Sep 2021