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Cash does not rule everything around ransomware. Microsoft and ESET offer more details about incidents in Ukraine. And analysts say Belarus and Russia are getting cozier in the cyber realm. This is CyberScoop for January 18.

Disruptive ransomware with no financial motive has the look of a trend

Ransomware has generated increasingly handsome profits for cybercriminals in the past few years, but there's growing evidence that nation-state hacking groups are ramping up their use of it for other purposes. Researchers say Iran has been using it to embarrass and inhibit enemies in Israel, and there are allegations and suspicions that China has employed ransomware for disruptive ends, too. This weekend, Microsoft said the attacks on Ukrainian government websites were also disguised as ransomware but had destructive goals. Tim Starks explains.

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More details on the Ukrainian government website attacks

While Microsoft said it couldn't attribute the attacks on Ukrainian government websites, Ukraine pointed the finger at Russia. "All the evidence points to Russia being behind the cyberattack," the Ukrainian digital transformation ministry said in a Sunday statement. "Moscow is continuing to wage a hybrid war." ESET researchers also provided details on the nature of the attack. "It is likely that attackers were trying to avoid existing detections at the last moment before the attack, that’s why they used third party criminal services," the company said. Tim has more.

The Belarus-Russia cyber nexus

An eye-opening report from Mandiant in November suggested links between the "Ghostwriter" campaign and the Belarus government, but didn't rule out Russian contributions. In an op-ed for CyberScoop, Gavin Wilde and Justin Sherman write that U.S. policymakers need to be on the lookout for potential growing cooperation. "Events in the backdrop provide reason to be skeptical that Minsk is capable of sophisticated cyber operations independent of Russia," the pair say. "Both countries’ security and geopolitical aims likewise call into question the relevance of any distinction between demonstrated Russian cyber operations and putative Belarusian ones." A Ukrainian official said Ghostwriter looked to be behind the attacks on government websites. Read the op-ed.

GAO’s postmortem on SolarWinds

The latest dissection of the late 2020 SolarWinds breach comes from the Government Accountability Office, which examined how well federal agencies responded to the incident. The in-depth study, published last week, points to widespread problems with information sharing. The big problem? Different agencies classify information differently, so sharing what they know during a crisis comes with unintended bureaucratic hurdles. The congressional watchdog interviewed several senior-level officials in preparing the 50-page report. FedScoop’s John Hewitt Jones has more.


Trends that shaped ransomware – and why it’s not slowing down

Ransomware has staked its claim as a major element of the cybercriminal ecosystem and potentially one of the costliest and most damaging malware attacks. A new report analyzes the ransomware epidemic and how it will shape the threat landscape in 2022 and beyond. Read more in the report.

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