Hackers vs Negotiators: A Dive into Ransomware Bargains

December 15, 2023
1 min read
  • Healthcare networks have been increasingly targeted in cyberattacks, with criminals gaining access to their networks as a result of human errors, such as mistakenly clicking on phishing emails.
  • The cyber-criminal groups known as Akira, BlackBasta, Lockbit and the Lazarus Group are known to engage in ransomware attacks, generating billions of dollars annually.
  • Drew Schmitt, employed by Guidepoint Security, works to negotiate with these groups and has handled a third of Fortune 500 companies and more than half of US government cabinet-level agencies.
  • Throughout the negotiation process, the criminals request a specific ransom, often in the millions, and if not paid, sensitive information is threatened to be released to the public or sold on the dark web.
  • Payments are usually conducted via cryptocurrency, primarily Bitcoin, and statistics reveal that around 65% of clients pay the ransom, with the average payment in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Many small and medium-sized businesses can’t afford to pay the ransom, either laying off people or shutting down completely.
  • Addressing these cyber-criminal networks is difficult as they usually operate within countries that don’t cooperate with US investigations.

Cyberattacks on healthcare networks are surging with human errors such as clicks on phishing emails being the primary gateway for such breaches. According to Drew Schmitt from Guidepoint Security, global threat actors like Akira, BlackBasta, Lockbit and the Lazarus Group are making billions of dollars annually through ransomware attacks. The negotiation process begins once these groups have successfully hacked a network and requested a ransom. If the ransom isn’t paid, the groups threaten to make sensitive data public or sell it on the dark web.

Payment is typically requested in cryptocurrency, usually Bitcoin. Guidepoint’s statistics suggest that 65% of their clients end up paying the ransom, the average amount of which hovers around the low hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, such high amounts are unaffordable for many small and medium businesses which may result in job losses or closures. Furthermore, successfully tackling these global cyber criminal networks poses a significant challenge due to their operations being based in countries uncooperative with US investigations.

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