Law enforcement seizes ALPHV/Blackcat sites, offers decryptor to victims

The US Justice Department announced today a disruption campaign against the Blackcat/ALPHV ransomware group and let victims know that there is a decryptor they can use.

ALPHV/Blackcat decryptor

FBI develops ALPHV/Blackcat decryptor

Over the past 18 months, ALPHV/Blackcat has emerged as the second most prolific ransomware-as-a-service variant in the world based on the hundreds of millions of dollars in ransoms paid by victims around the world. Due to the global scale of these crimes, multiple foreign law enforcement agencies are conducting parallel investigations.

The FBI developed a decryption tool that allowed FBI field offices across the country and law enforcement partners around the world to offer over 500 affected victims the capability to restore their systems. To date, the FBI has worked with dozens of victims in the United States and internationally to implement this solution, saving multiple victims from ransom demands totaling approximately $68 million.

As detailed in a search warrant unsealed today in the Southern District of Florida, the FBI has also gained visibility into the Blackcat ransomware group’s computer network as part of the investigation and has seized several websites that the group operated.

About ALPHV/Blackcat

According to the unsealed warrant, Blackcat actors have compromised computer networks in the United States and worldwide. The disruptions caused by the ransomware variant have affected US critical infrastructure – including government facilities, emergency services, defense industrial base companies, critical manufacturing, and healthcare and public health facilities – as well as other corporations, government entities, and schools.

The loss amount globally is in the hundreds of millions and includes ransom payments, destruction and theft of proprietary data, and costs associated with incident response.

Blackcat uses a ransomware-as-a-service model in which developers are responsible for creating and updating ransomware and for maintaining the illicit internet infrastructure.

Affiliates are responsible for identifying and attacking high-value victim institutions with the ransomware. After a victim pays, developers and affiliates share the ransom.

Blackcat actors employ a multiple extortion model of attack. Before encrypting the victim system, the affiliate will exfiltrate or steal sensitive data. The affiliate then seeks a ransom in exchange for decrypting the victim’s system and not publishing the stolen data.

Blackcat actors attempt to target the most sensitive data in a victim’s system to increase the pressure to pay. Blackcat actors rely on a leak site available on the dark web to publicize their attacks. When a victim refuses to pay a ransom, these actors commonly retaliate by publishing stolen data to a leak website where it becomes publicly available.

Blackcat affiliates have gained initial access to victim networks through a number of methods, including leveraging compromised user credentials to gain initial access to the victim system. More information about the malware, including technical information about indicators of compromise and recommendations to mitigate its effects, is available from the FBI.

Coordinated law enforcement action

The FBI Miami Field Office is leading the investigation. The Justice Department also recognizes the critical cooperation of Europol, Germany’s Bundeskriminalamt and Zentrale Kriminalinspektion Göttingen, Denmark’s Special Crime Unit, and Europol, and law agencies in Australia, UK, Spain, Switzerland, and Austria.

Victims of Blackcat ransomware are strongly encouraged to contact their local FBI field office for further information and to determine what assistance may be available.

Additional information regarding law enforcement’s ongoing investigation into Blackcat is available here.

“At the Justice Department, we prioritize victim safety and security,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“In this case, agents and prosecutors worked tirelessly to restore victim networks, but these actions are not the culmination of our efforts, they are just the beginning. Criminal actors should be aware that the announcement today is just one part of this ongoing effort. Going forward, we will continue our investigation and pursue those behind Blackcat until they are brought to justice.”

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