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Ransomware is driving up insurance prices. The State Department offers help on cyber attribution. And DarkSide affiliates are staying busy. This is CyberScoop for May 21, 2021.

Ransomware attacks shake up insurance market

Cyber insurers have raised premiums and cooled on risky sectors like health care in the wake of a wave of ransomware hacks, the GAO said in a new report. More than half of the brokers surveyed by an industry group said that their clients saw premiums increase between 10% and 30% in late 2020. The findings come amid a period of unprecedented scrutiny for the cyber insurance industry, as multimillion-dollar ransoms come to light and cybercriminals appear to target insurers for a list of their clients to extort. Sean Lyngaas dives in.

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State Department trains up on cyber attribution

The State Department wrapped up a training course Friday on cyber attribution, which took place May 17-21. The program was targeted at 50 policymakers from around the world, and attendees included personnel from ministries of foreign affairs, ministries of telecommunications, national security coordinating agencies and technical bodies like national computer security incident response teams, a State official said. “Attributions can be done with several different goals in mind, including to alert network defenders to a serious threat; to send a message about malicious cyber activity; and to accompany other policy measures that advance accountability, such as sanctions, indictments, and diplomatic consequences,” the official said. “The course also highlighted the sorts of policy considerations and processes that governments rely on in deciding whether to attribute cyber incidents.” You can read more here.

More details on DarkSide affiliate activities

Just because the group behind the ransomware attack at Colonial Pipeline, DarkSide, has started a retreat doesn’t mean that its customers have done the same. DarkSide refers to a criminal gang as well as an affiliate ransomware that hackers offer for leases on underground forums. Customers who rented access to the DarkSide hacking tool are keeping active, according to RiskIQ research. In one case, it seems, a hacking group is combining the DarkSide affiliate tool with a malicious Shopify URL to try infecting victims. Read the findings here.

A botnet expands revenue streams to include crypto mining

The Phoripex botnet, known for facilitating ransomware campaigns, is expanding its capabilities to offer data exfiltration, cryptocurrency mining and other capabilities, Microsoft warns in new research. Phoripex is an old botnet perhaps best known for being an outdated threat that spammers rely on to inflate their traffic. The recent movements, though, are evidence that botnets remain a persistent annoyance. "Despite being traditionally associated with lower-risk activity like extortion and spamming, Phorpiex operators’ decision to move to more impactful malware and actions is entirely at the whim of the attackers," the company said. Dig deeper.

How disinformation made life harder for Arizona election officials

The disinformation campaigns that attempted to disrupt the 2020 presidential election should serve as a reminder to government cybersecurity officials that monitoring social media will be part of their mission going forward, the chief information security officer for Maricopa County, Arizona, said Thursday. In the days following Nov. 3, Godsey recalled, people on social media platforms — including “not your normal and popular platforms” — coordinated caravans to follow around Maricopa County election workers after they left their offices. It was just one example of how bad information influenced people’s behaviors. “Social media disinformation and misinformation was a game changer for us,” he added. StateScoop’s Benjamin Freed is on the case.

Wyoming CIO quits amid data flap

Wyoming Chief Information Officer Gordon Knopp stepped down amid the exposure of personal information collected from thousands of residents who had been tested for the coronavirus, Gov. Mark Gordon announced. Knopp, who was appointed to the Cabinet-level position in 2019, resigned alongside Wyoming Department of Health Director Mike Ceballos. The Wyoming Department of Health had acknowledged April 27 that as early as last November, a public health employee unintentionally posted 53 files containing state residents’ information — collected from COVID-19 and influenza screenings, as well as some breath alcohol tests — on public and private servers hosted by GitHub, the online code repository. Benjamin Freed has more.

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