November 20

Cybercriminal syndicates get into the protection racket


Cybercriminal syndicates have come a long way in terms of the amount of poise and self-assurance they are able to maintain while engaging in brazen ransomware attacks that have evolved into nothing more than an old-fashioned protection racket.

ALPHV, formerly known as Blackcat, has reportedly even gone so far as to file a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that claims MeridenLink violated the agency’s recently established guidelines when the online loan provider filed to disclose its data had been compromised by the cybercriminal syndicate.

Other cybercriminal syndicates will now for a monthly fee pledge to not only refrain from attacking a company; they will also protect that organization from other cybercriminals. The level of professional customer service being provided could easily be the envy of any organization committed to providing the best experience possible.

Of course, cybercriminal syndicates are going to all the trouble of providing that level of service to lull organizations into believing the protection being provided is now simply just another a cost of doing business. In fact, some of them will even offer to help remediate the vulnerability they are threatening to exploit. Of course, that also means they will undoubtedly discover other issues they can exploit while providing that service.

What makes cybercriminal syndicates so hard to stop

Historically, breaking up a protection racket that preyed on shop owners required a lot of time and effort on the part of law enforcement. In addition to securing the cooperation of victims willing to testify, all the members of an extortion ring generally needed to be arrested at the same time to prevent any one of them from carrying out their threats. If organized crime figures got wind of the investigation, store owners would wake up one morning to discover their shop had been burned to the ground.

Arresting members of a cybercriminal syndicate is even more challenging. Most of the leaders of these organizations reside in countries that protect them if a warrant is issued. Even then, given how many syndicates there are, many of the members will just move to another should the leaders of the one they are currently affiliated with be arrested.

Law enforcement officials are getting more adept at recovering the money that cybercriminal syndicates have hidden away in various types of accounts, but the assets these organizations control are still valued in the billions. The funds being used to provide a first-class customer service experience are only a small fraction of the total revenue generated. The resources cybercriminal syndicates have at their disposal to invest in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence dwarf the amount of budget dollars the average organization is going to be able to allocate to cybersecurity.

The important thing to remember is no matter how professional the demeanor a cybercriminal presents, there is no such thing as honor among thieves. They are not inclined to completely destroy any organization that provides them revenue in return for not being victimized further, but once allowed they will, like and other parasite, repeatedly feed off any entity for as long as they are allowed.


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