How Russian hackers created a lucrative ransomware business model

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If you want to extort millions of dollars from a large U.S. company, you can’t do it alone. It takes a village. A village of hackers with advanced computer skills, who hang out on the Dark Web, and most likely live in Russia.

At Wednesday’s summit in Geneva, President Biden called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to crackdown on cyber crimes. But the Russian leader has shown little interest in combatting an emerging criminal industry in his country that’s called ‘ransomware-as-a-service.’

“Ransomware has become a huge business, and as in any business, in order to scale it, they’re coming up with innovative models.” said Dmitri Alperovitch, head of the technology group Silverado Policy Accelerator in Washington.

Alperovitch said this model is its own ecosystem that includes three key players. The top tier is made up of small gangs that make the sophisticated malware that locks up the computer systems and encrypts the data at targeted companies.

More than a hundred such groups are believed to be active, though Alperovitch estimates about a dozen are doing this on a large scale. Russia and neighboring countries account for many of the gangs, he said. The best known include DarkSide, blamed for the attack on Colonial Pipeline, and REvil, accused in the hack of the meat supplier JBS.

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