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4 of 2020’s Biggest Ransomware Strains Linked to Majority of Attacks

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4 of 2020’s Biggest Ransomware Strains Linked to Majority of Attacks

The four most prominent ransomware strains of 2020, Maze, Egregor, SunCrypt, and Doppelpaymer have connections that lead back to the same Ransom as a Service (RaaS) network and affiliates.

According to a new Chainalysis 2021 Crypto Crime Report, established connections between the four strains indicate that they are either being controlled or executed by the same group of people.

“There may be fewer cybercriminals responsible for ransom attacks that one would initially think, given the number of individual attacks, distinct strains and amount stolen from victims.”

RaaS is a business model by ransom developers who lease or sell different strains of their ransomware to affiliates who in turn use them to perform attacks on individuals or organizations.

Cybersecurity researchers identified strong links between the four strains, all of which were relatively active in 2020. They were used to attack different companies and institutions including Barnes &Noble, LG, Pemex and University Hospital New Jersey.

“All four use the RaaS model, meaning that affiliates carry out the ransom attacks themselves and pay a percentage of each victim payment back to the strain’s creators and administrators.”

Additionally, the strains have all been using the same double extortion method to blackmail their victims by threatening to withhold data and publish it online for extra intimidation.

Ransomware Strains are Interlinked

The Maze strain disappeared shortly after Egregor became active in Q4 2020. Its administrators later announced in November that its website was shutting down due to reduced activity.

“Some Cybersecurity researchers see this as evidence that Maze and Egregor are linked in some way.”

Researchers further claimed that Maze operators either rebranded to Egregor or joined the latter’s operators, with a row between the two groups resulting in a split.

“Maze and Egregor share much of the same code, the same ransom note, and have very similar victim payment sites.”

SunCrypt has also been linked severally to Maze, including through a privately circulated report from a threat intelligence firm saying that SunCrypt is a rebrand of a well-known ransomware strain.

A connection between Egragor and Doppelpaymer has also been established through a 78.8 BTC ransom payment for Egregor that was suspected to be a Doppelpaymer administrator wallet.

Useful Information for Law Enforcement

Chainalysis concludes that Law enforcement agencies could benefit from this information to expand their crackdowns and even halt operations of well-known interlinked strains with a single takedown.

“Evidence suggests that the ransom world is smaller than one may initially think, given the number of unique strains currently operating.”

Ransomware attacks grew by 311% in 2020, with $350 million being paid by ransomware victims to attackers, despite crypto-related criminal activity falling by 83%. 

Gaming

Microsoft Purchases Activision, Makers Of Call Of Duty In A Move That Signals Huge Metaverse Adoption

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Microsoft Purchases Activision, Makers Of Call Of Duty In A Move That Signals Huge Metaverse Adoption
  • Microsoft has signaled strong interest in the metaverse with the latest acquisition of Activision.
  • The deal is worth a staggering $69 billion and will be finalized over the next few months.
  • This is not the first time that tech giants will be dabbling into the metaverse.

It is easy to argue that gaming might be the best application for NFTs and the metaverse and Microsoft certainly agrees. The company’s latest acquisition signals intent to be a major player in the growing metaverse industry.

The Deal

According to an announcement by the Microsoft News Centre, the tech company will acquire Activision Blizzard in an all-cash transaction that is worth nearly $69 billion. Upon completion of the deal, Microsoft will ascend the ranks to become the third biggest gaming company behind Tencent and market leader, Sony.

“Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard for $95.00 per share, in an all-cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion, inclusive of Activision Blizzard’s net cash,”  read the report. To close the deal, Microsoft had Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC as its financial advisor while Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP were legal counsel.

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella hinted that the reason for the splurge was as a result of the growing interest in the metaverse and the tech company is “investing deeply” in introducing an era that puts players at the forefront for a more inclusive approach. “Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” noted the CEO.

The acquisition adds to Microsoft’s growing Game Pass portfolio that has over 25 million subscribers. Activision Blizzard is behind popular gaming titles like Call of Duty, Warcraft, and Candy Crush with over 400 million monthly active players around the world and will certainly make Game Pass a force to reckon with in gaming.

The current CEO of Activision Blizzard will continue to serve in his current role until the close of the 2023 fiscal year, and then the management team will report to Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

Previous Metaverse Forays

The race for a nice chunk of the metaverse between Facebook and Microsoft has been heated in recent weeks after the report that 100 Microsoft employees left to join Facebook’s Meta. 

Before the close of the year, Microsoft’s CEO disclosed the company’s plan for the metaverse through the introduction of “Mesh”. Through Mesh, company staff can create custom avatars that will allow them to hold meetings and interact with each other in the metaverse. The CEO also hinted that the company could integrate attributes of the metaverse in its Xbox consoles.

Microsoft has also been knee-deep in the development of virtual reality hardware with the release of its wide range of devices like the HoloLens 2 amongst others. The company also boasts of VR-ready PCs and ultra-modern Windows Mixed Reality. As part of its drive to a metaverse future.

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Cryptocurrency

Binance CEO Closing The Wealth Distance Between Him And Mark Zuckerberg – Makes Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index

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Binance CEO Closing The Wealth Distance Between Him And Mark Zuckerberg - Makes Bloomberg's Billionaires Index
  • Bloomberg’s billionaire index has put Changpeng Zhao’s fortune at nearly $100 billion.
  • The Binance CEO has stated in the past that he will most likely give away all of his wealth.
  • Despite his financial fortunes, Changpeng Zhao faces a stern test from regulators around the world.

The rich list released by Bloomberg puts CZ as he is fondly called as the 11th richest man alive. His net worth by far outstrips the conservative figures given by Forbes last year.

Almost 100 Billion Dollars

Cryptocurrencies have earned a reputation for giving investors incredible returns on their investments and one of the major players in the ecosystem is already reaping the rewards. A recent Bloomberg rich list claims that Binance’s founder and CEO, Changpeng Zhao is worth $96 billion.

The rationale behind this valuation is that Zhao owns a majority stake in the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, Binance. According to data gleaned from trading volumes and fees, Binance recorded around $20 billion in revenue which is nearly 3 times the revenue of Coinbase. An interesting fact about the rating is that it does not take into account his crypto holdings. Zhao is said to hold a large cache of BNB that has since soared by over 1000%

“Don’t worry about rankings. Focus on how many people you can help,” he tweeted a few hours after the Bloomberg report went live. “Unpopular opinion: instead of wealth rankings, there should be a ranking of charity and philanthropy efforts.”

The CEO has previously stated that he intends to donate more than 90% of his fortune to charity over the course of his life like other wealthy entrepreneurs that had come before him. He claimed in an Associated Press interview that he personally did not require a lot of money to maintain the current standard of his life. However, in a money move, reports emerged that CZ had purchased a multi-million dollar home in Dubai in November 2021.

Binance and its CEO donated $150,000 for the building of an ultramodern school in Uganda and also pledged to raise $1 million AUD for the planting of 100,000 trees in commemoration of Earth Day. Other charitable moves include the financial donation to healthcare workers in Mexico and a 1 million donation to UNICEF to support COVID-19 Vaccination equality.

Where He Seats On The Rankings

A net worth of $96 billion places Changpeng Zhao over India’s Mukesh Ambani and below Larry Elison. However, if his cryptocurrency holdings are taken into account, Zhao could easily rub shoulders with other tech billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page that have net worths of $122 billion and $123 billion respectively.

Binance has been embroiled in regulatory battles with the authorities in various jurisdictions, leading to fines and bans. The exchange has taken steps to be on the good books of regulators and is hiring ex-regulators to help in its compliance drive. It is expected that after achieving regulatory passes in its troubled jurisdiction, Changpeng Zhao’s net worth could outstrip Mark Zuckerberg’s.

The founder of FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried was named the richest 29 year old by Forbes last year with a fortune of $26.5 billion. Other cryptocurrency billionaires include Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, and the Winklevoss Twins, founders of crypto exchange Gemini.

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