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Russian Hacking Cartel Attacks Costa Rican Government Agencies

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Hackers claiming to be affiliated with Conti broke into Costa Rica’s Ministry of Finance, the government said, and from there the ransomware spread to other agencies.

Credit: Mayela Lopez/Reuters

A Russian hacking cartel carried out an extraordinary cyberattack against the government of Costa Rica, crippling tax collection and export systems for more than a month so far and forcing the country to declare a state of emergency.

The ransomware gang Conti, which is based in Russia, claimed credit for the attack, which began on April 12, and has threatened to leak the stolen information unless it is paid $20 million. Experts who track Conti's movements said the group had recently begun to shift its focus from the United States and Europe to countries in Central and South America, perhaps to retaliate against nations that have supported Ukraine.

Some experts also believe Conti feared a crackdown by the United States and was seeking fresh targets, regardless of politics. The group is responsible for more than 1,000 ransomware attacks worldwide that have led to earnings of more than $150 million, according to estimates from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"The ransomware cartels figured out multinationals in the U.S. and Western Europe are less likely to blink if they need to pay some ungodly sum in order to get their business running," said Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade, a principal threat researcher at SentinelOne. "But at some point, you are going to tap out that space."

From The New York Times
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