Beware the Cyber Samaritan Scam: Ransomware Victims Hit by Fake Security Research Extortion

Beware the faux cyber savior! Ransomware victims now face a new con: fake security experts promising to delete stolen data for a hefty Bitcoin fee. Arctic Wolf exposes this sneaky scam, where help comes with a hacker’s hidden agenda. #RansomwareReExtortion

Hot Take:

It’s not enough that victims of ransomware have to deal with the equivalent of a digital mugging, now they have to fend off the cyber equivalent of a con artist offering to “fix” the problem—for a hefty fee, of course. In this latest twist, “helpful” security researchers are just wolves in sheep’s clothing, or should we say wolves in wolf-labs clothing? You’ve got to admire the audacity, if not the morality, of these fake cyber Samaritans.

Key Points:

  • Ransomware victims are being double-crossed by fake security researchers offering to delete their stolen data—for a modest 5 Bitcoin ransom.
  • The dubious cyber Samaritans approached victims with offers of hacking into ransomware servers or providing access to stolen data.
  • Arctic Wolf Labs sniffed out the scam and linked the attempts to a likely single threat actor, despite different aliases being used.
  • These re-extortion shenanigans are a new spin on an old trick, traditionally performed by the same ransomware groups, not third parties.
  • The true identities of the victims and whether the ransomware gangs were involved in the scheme remain as murky as a hacker’s conscience.

Need to know more?

The Cyber Shakedown Encore

Imagine you're reeling from a ransomware hangover, and just when you think the coast is clear, along comes a digital snake oil salesman offering a cure. Turns out, these ransomware victims found themselves in a sequel nobody asked for, starring a faux security guru with a cure-all for their digital woes. The twist? This time, it's personal—and it'll cost you a cool $225k in Bitcoin.

Double Trouble or Singular Scoundrel?

While the victims might have been bamboozled into thinking a league of extraordinary cyber gentlemen was at their service, the eagle-eyed researchers at Arctic Wolf Labs smelt something fishy. Using their super-sleuthing skills, they deduced it was probably just one entrepreneurial criminal mastermind wearing multiple digital disguises. And like any bad movie villain, they left a signature—a trail of similar messaging habits and demands.

The Plot Thickens But Doesn't Pay Off

The would-be cyber extortionist may have been crafty, but their plotline had no payout. Neither victim took the bait. It seems that in the world of cybercrime, as in Hollywood, not all sequels are guaranteed box office gold. The criminals targeted finance and construction SMBs, but as to why they chose these industries or what their endgame was, remains as unclear as the terms and conditions of any online service.

A New Twist on an Old Classic

Re-extortion isn't a groundbreaking concept in the underworld of ransomware. The likes of Conti and Karakurt have been pulling repeat performances using their own backdoors. But this latest stunt has a fresh angle—it's the first reported case of an outsider playing the hero for hire. It's enough to make you pine for the days when all a hacker did was lock up your files and demand cash, without the extra theatrics.

The Lone Ranger or Just Lone?

The cyber shenanigans were conducted under the monikers Ethical Side Group and xanonymoux, neither of which rings a bell in the cybercrime community. These aliases might as well be "John Doe" for all the notoriety they had. It's possible that we're looking at a lone wolf trying to stand out in the crowded forest of cybercrime, or maybe it's just a cub trying to prove its worth. Whatever the case, the researchers are still piecing together the digital puzzle.

Moral of the Story

In the end, it's a stark reminder that in the cyber wild west, not all heroes wear capes—some wear a mask of deceit. And in this ever-evolving narrative of cat and mouse, or in this case, wolf and sheep, the only thing we can be sure of is that the next chapter is just a hack away.

Tags: Bitcoin Extortion, Cybercrime Tactics, Fake Cyber Samaritan, Ransomware Extortion, Ransomware Gangs, Security Researcher Scam, Threat Actor Behavior