April 13, 2024

There are indications that U.S. healthcare big Change Healthcare has made a $22 million extortion fee to the notorious BlackCat ransomware group (a.ok.a. “ALPHV“) as the corporate struggles to carry companies again on-line amid a cyberattack that has disrupted prescription drug companies nationwide for weeks. Nevertheless, the cybercriminal who claims to have given BlackCat entry to Change’s community says the crime gang cheated them out of their share of the ransom, and that they nonetheless have the delicate knowledge Change reportedly paid the group to destroy. In the meantime, the affiliate’s disclosure seems to have prompted BlackCat to stop operations solely.

Picture: Varonis.

Within the third week of February, a cyber intrusion at Change Healthcare started shutting down necessary healthcare companies as firm programs have been taken offline. It quickly emerged that BlackCat was behind the assault, which has disrupted the delivery of prescription drugs for hospitals and pharmacies nationwide for practically two weeks.

On March 1, a cryptocurrency handle that safety researchers had already mapped to BlackCat obtained a single transaction price roughly $22 million. On March 3, a BlackCat affiliate posted a criticism to the unique Russian-language ransomware discussion board Ramp saying that Change Healthcare had paid a $22 million ransom for a decryption key, and to forestall 4 terabytes of stolen knowledge from being printed on-line.

The affiliate claimed BlackCat/ALPHV took the $22 million fee however by no means paid him his share of the ransom. BlackCat is called a “ransomware-as-service” collective, which means they depend on freelancers or associates to contaminate new networks with their ransomware. And people associates in flip earn commissions starting from 60 to 90 % of any ransom quantity paid.

“However after receiving the fee ALPHV workforce determine to droop our account and maintain mendacity and delaying once we contacted ALPHV admin,” the affiliate “Notchy” wrote. “Sadly for Change Healthcare, their knowledge [is] nonetheless with us.”

Change Healthcare has neither confirmed nor denied paying, and has responded to a number of media retailers with the same non-denial assertion — that the corporate is focused on its investigation and on restoring services.

Assuming Change Healthcare did pay to maintain their knowledge from being printed, that technique appears to have gone awry: Notchy mentioned the listing of affected Change Healthcare companions they’d stolen delicate knowledge from included Medicare and a bunch of different main insurance coverage and pharmacy networks.

On the brilliant aspect, Notchy’s criticism appears to have been the ultimate nail within the coffin for the BlackCat ransomware group, which was infiltrated by the FBI and overseas regulation enforcement companions in late December 2023. As a part of that motion, the federal government seized the BlackCat web site and launched a decryption software to assist victims get well their programs.

BlackCat responded by re-forming, and rising affiliate commissions to as a lot as 90 %. The ransomware group additionally declared it was formally eradicating any restrictions or discouragement in opposition to focusing on hospitals and healthcare suppliers.

Nevertheless, as an alternative of responding that they’d compensate and placate Notchy, a consultant for BlackCat mentioned as we speak the group was shutting down and that it had already discovered a purchaser for its ransomware supply code.

The seizure discover now displayed on the BlackCat darknet web site.

“There’s no sense in making excuses,” wrote the RAMP member “Ransom.” “Sure, we knew about the issue, and we have been attempting to unravel it. We instructed the affiliate to attend. We may ship you our non-public chat logs the place we’re shocked by all the pieces that’s occurring and are attempting to unravel the problem with the transactions by utilizing the next payment, however there’s no sense in doing that as a result of we determined to totally shut the mission. We will formally state that we acquired screwed by the feds.”

BlackCat’s web site now incorporates a seizure discover from the FBI, however a number of researchers famous that this picture appears to have been merely reduce and pasted from the discover the FBI left in its December raid of BlackCat’s community. The FBI has not responded to requests for remark.

Fabian Wosar, head of ransomware analysis on the safety agency Emsisoft, mentioned it seems BlackCat leaders are attempting to tug an “exit rip-off” on associates by withholding many ransomware fee commissions without delay and shutting down the service.

“ALPHV/BlackCat didn’t get seized,” Wosar wrote on Twitter/X as we speak. “They’re exit scamming their associates. It’s blatantly apparent if you verify the supply code of their new takedown discover.”

Dmitry Smilyanets, a researcher for the safety agency Recorded Future, mentioned BlackCat’s exit rip-off was particularly harmful as a result of the affiliate nonetheless has all of the stolen knowledge, and will nonetheless demand extra fee or leak the data on his personal.

“The associates nonetheless have this knowledge, they usually’re mad they didn’t obtain this cash, Smilyanets told Wired.com. “It’s a great lesson for everybody. You can not belief criminals; their phrase is price nothing.”

BlackCat’s obvious demise comes carefully on the heels of the implosion of one other main ransomware group — LockBit, a ransomware gang estimated to have extorted over $120 million in funds from greater than 2,000 victims worldwide. On Feb. 20, LockBit’s web site was seized by the FBI and the U.Ok.’s Nationwide Crime Company (NCA) following a months-long infiltration of the group.

LockBit additionally tried to revive its status on the cybercrime boards by resurrecting itself at a brand new darknet web site, and by threatening to launch knowledge from quite a lot of main firms that have been hacked by the group within the weeks and days previous to the FBI takedown.

However LockBit seems to have since misplaced any credibility the group could have as soon as had. After a much-promoted assault on the federal government of Fulton County, Ga., for instance, LockBit threatened to launch Fulton County’s knowledge until paid a ransom by Feb. 29. However when Feb. 29 rolled round, LockBit merely deleted the entry for Fulton County from its web site, together with these of a number of monetary organizations that had beforehand been extorted by the group.

Fulton County held a press convention to say that it had not paid a ransom to LockBit, nor had anybody carried out so on their behalf, and that they have been simply as mystified as everybody else as to why LockBit by no means adopted by on its risk to publish the county’s knowledge. Consultants instructed KrebsOnSecurity LockBit probably balked as a result of it was bluffing, and that the FBI probably relieved them of that knowledge of their raid.

Smilyanets’ feedback are pushed house in revelations first printed final month by Recorded Future, which quoted an NCA official as saying LockBit by no means deleted the information after being paid a ransom, though that’s the solely motive a lot of its victims paid.

“If we don’t offer you decrypters, or we don’t delete your knowledge after fee, then no person pays us sooner or later,” LockBit’s extortion notes usually learn.

Hopefully, extra firms are beginning to get the memo that paying cybercrooks to delete stolen knowledge is a shedding proposition throughout.