The Week (US)

A tool kit for the extortion profession­al

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Joshua Yaffa

There’s a new cloud-based enterprise that’s taking Silicon Valley’s business ideas and applying them to crime, said Joshua Yaffa. Call it “ransomware as a service.” That’s essentiall­y the pitch from DarkSide, the world’s most high-profile hacking group. Surprising­ly, DarkSide doesn’t actually carry out cyberattac­ks; its business is providing “affiliated hackers with a range of services, from handling negotiatio­ns to processing payments.” When DarkSide debuted on Russian-language cybercrime forums, it promoted its offerings as tech entreprene­urs do—complete with a sliding fee scale. In the Colonial Pipeline system breach, DarkSide managed

the parts requiring social skill, such as determinin­g the ransom value, communicat­ing with the victim, and arranging the payment. It’s a perfect business model for a country like Russia, which has loads of young people trained in computer science and mathematic­s “but few outlets to realize those talents.” And Russia, which is nonchalant about hacking and turns a blind eye to attacks against foreign targets, has largely given DarkSide free rein to ply its trade. DarkSide’s site went down on May 14, possibly as a result of U.S. retaliatio­n. But you can count on it “to regroup and rebrand as a new product—a very techworld sort of recovery from a public flameout.”

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