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While still reeling from last month’s WannaCry attack, organizations worldwide were hit with another global ransomware attack yesterday, June 27, 2017. The infection began inside the Ukraine but has quickly spread across four continents and over 65 countries, affecting many thousands of computers. The growing list of corporate victims includes a large Danish shipping company, the biggest advertising agency worldwide, a French construction material company, Russia’s largest oil producer, a major U.S. pharmaceutical company, and a multinational law firm. Numerous public and private institutions in the Ukraine are also affected, including everything from bank ATM’s to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
Variously called “Petya,” “GoldenEye,” “Petrwrap,” and “NotPetya” by different cybersecurity researchers, the current cyberattack’s malware is an offshoot of earlier Petya ransomware that began circulating last year. The new Petya variant encrypts a computer’s hard drive – making it inoperable – and demands $300 in Bitcoin to regain access. Victims are instructed to make payment into a specified Bitcoin wallet and then email confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org – although that email account has now been deactivated by German email provider Posteo. About 36 ransom payments were made on June 27, 2017 – according to Blockchain analysis – but by the following morning no one had reported regaining access to infected computers.
Petya ransomware appears similar to WannaCry but more resilient and destructive. It uses wormlike propagation to spread quickly across a computer network and has multiple attack vectors in addition to the “EternalBlue” exploit to Windows that WannaCry used, such as Word documents laced with malicious macros and compromised updates for accounting software called “MeDoc.” Unfortunately, Petya contains no known “kill switch” similar to what curtailed WannaCry’s spread. As Wired’s Lily Hay Newman put it, “while WannaCry’s many design flaws caused it to flame out after a few days, this latest ransomware threat doesn’t make the same mistakes.”
Petya’s ongoing threat reflects a new reality for businesses today. With periodic leaks of alleged NSA hacking tools such as EternalBlue, cheap “Ransomware as a Service” being offered on dark web forums, and well-funded cybercriminal groups linked to organized crime and foreign governments, we are just going to see more and more ransomware and other cyberattacks targeting business operations and infrastructure. In other words, today’s cybercrime targets not only sensitive data stored on computers but also the integrity of computer systems that we rely upon every day.
Accordingly, business leaders and corporate officials such as in-house counsel need to be informed and prepared. Even after weathering a ransomware attack, an organization may still face expensive regulatory enforcement actions and civil litigation, not to mention reputational damage and lost business. With that in mind, the following are some basic action items to consider in preparing for and responding to ransomware attacks:
Preparing for Ransomware
Responding to Ransomware
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Allen O’Rourke at 704.350.6357 or AORourke@wcsr.com.
Allen O’Rourke represents clients affected by data breaches and cyberattacks. He investigates cybersecurity incidents, coordinates the remediation of breaches, interfaces with law enforcement, and ensures compliance with applicable data breach laws and regulations. Beyond incident response, Allen handles government investigations, regulatory enforcement actions, consumer class actions, and other cybersecurity litigation. He also provides counsel on active network defense, electronic evidence gathering, cybersecurity preparedness, and regulatory compliance. Before joining Womble Carlyle, Allen was an Assistant U.S. Attorney specializing in cybercrime at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, where he handled corporate data breaches, business email compromise schemes, “dark web” criminal forums, money laundering using Bitcoin, terrorist use of the Internet, and other cybercrime.