Sting Finds Ransomware Data Recovery Firms Are Just Paying The Ransom

“ProPublica recently reported that two U.S. firms, which professed to use their own data recovery methods to help ransomware victims regain access to infected files, instead paid the hackers. Now there’s new evidence that a U.K. firm takes a similar approach.”

An anonymous reader quotes their report:
Fabian Wosar, a cyber security researcher, told ProPublica this month that, in a sting operation he conducted in April, Scotland-based Red Mosquito Data Recovery said it was “running tests” to unlock files while actually negotiating a ransom payment. Wosar, the head of research at anti-virus provider Emsisoft, said he posed as both hacker and victim so he could review the company’s communications to both sides. Red Mosquito Data Recovery “made no effort to not pay the ransom” and instead went “straight to the ransomware author literally within minutes,” Wosar said. “Behavior like this is what keeps ransomware running.”

Since 2016, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have taken place daily, or about 1.5 million per year, according to statistics posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Law enforcement has failed to stem ransomware’s spread, and culprits are rarely caught… But clients who don’t want to give in to extortion are susceptible to firms that claim to have their own methods of decrypting files. Often, victims are willing to pay more than the ransom amount to regain access to their files if they believe the money is going to a data recovery firm rather than a hacker, Wosar said.
Red Mosquito charged their client four times the actual ransom amount, according to the report — though after ProPublica followed up, the company “did not respond to emailed questions, and hung up when we called the number listed on its website.”

The company then also “removed the statement from its website that it provides an alternative to paying hackers. It also changed ‘honest, free advice’ to ‘simple free advice,’ and the ‘hundreds’ of ransomware cases it has handled to ‘many.'”

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