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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%. 

Cryptocurrency

Crypto Researchers Concerned About The ‘Centralized Structure’ Of The Binance Smart Chain

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Crypto Researchers Concerned About The 'Centralized Structure' Of The Binance Smart Chain

Binance Smart Chain has been rising in popularity as interest rates from different parts of the world, including South Korea, sent the network’s transaction records to new highs. However, this has not deterred analysts’ from pointing out the increasing level of centralization within the network. Ryan Watkins, a Messari analyst recently addressed the influence that Binance has on the entire Binance Smart Chain, explaining that most of the commendable progress made on the network is not the result of the implementation of innovative concepts. Rather, it is a product of Binance’s control over the BSC network.

“The reason why BSC is faster and more scalable is not because of some magical technological innovation. No, it’s instead the magic of centralization. BSC is an Ethereum fork with a centralized validator set. That’s it. Nothing more.” He wrote on Twitter.

Unlike some other networks, the Binance Smart Chain has a total of 21 validators (people who verify the transactions and confirm their legitimacy, before adding them to the Blockchain). These validators are handpicked by the Binance Chain, further strengthening the notion that the network may be more centralized than it shows itself to be. 

Wilson Withiam rolls out some points to consider, starting with the pattern of resetting active validators, which is determined by the voting power of each validator. He notes that BNB staking and delegation is carried out on the Binance Chain, by Binance Chain validators as well.

In essence, Withiam argues that the pattern of validator distribution across the Binance Smart Chain is questionable as the identities of those behind the nodes in the validator sets are not made transparent. As he puts it “BSC now supports several third-party validators, although at least 5-6 others have close ties to Binance. The distribution of validator accounts is far less clear for Binance Chain.”

To dispute that Binance’s user experience is not ahead of other networks is false, and Withiam agrees with this. Even Watkins acknowledges this as he noted that BSC has fueled mainstream adoption of DeFi “Binance has incredible reach and influence and has used that to funnel a boatload of new users in DeFi. Binance executes period. That’s why BSC is winning.” He asserted. 

However, he argues that speed and scalability outside Ethereum without sharding or a centralization can only be legitimately found on the Solana Blockchain. Conclusively, Withiam urges BSC users to poke into the network, enough to understand where the loopholes are. 

“For those using BSC, take the time to understand the topology of the network. Sure, the fees and speed (both UX factors) are undoubtedly preferable. But strong censorship resistance and fault tolerance are not part of the package.” He wrote in conclusion.

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Elon Musk Promises to Literally Take Dogecoin to the Moon with SpaceX

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Elon Musk Promises to Literally Take Dogecoin to the Moon with SpaceX

Elon Musk spiked the price of Dogecoin by 3% after tweeting that SpaceX will take the meme-themed cryptocurrency to the literal moon.

“SpaceX is going to put a literal Dogecoin on the literal moon.”

Traders often use the term “to the moon” when expecting prices of a certain stock or digital currency to surge.

Elon Musk is a self-appointed Dogecoin and Bitcoin advocate and frequently tweets witty statements about the Japanese dog Shibu Inu, the central appeal and logo of the meme-themed cryptocurrency. The last time tweeted about Dogecoin was in mid-March:

“I’m getting a Shiba Inu #restistanceisfutile.”

The tweet also comes a month after Elon tweeted a meme of a Shiba Inu standing on the moon in a spacesuit while holding a Dogecoin flag, followed by the words, “literally” and “on the actual moon.”

Elon Musk and Dogecoin

Elon’s ability to influence bitcoin and Dogecoin’s price actions by merely tweeting about it has been both acclaimed and criticized for boosting crypto adoption and hindering mainstream acceptance, respectively.

Dogecoin has a total circulating supply of 129 billion Doge and an undefined maximum supply, unlike Bitcoin. Analysts including Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao have warned investors against exposing themselves to assets with infinite amounts of supply.

However, Elon’s influence and Dogecoin’s price action in the past 6 months have inspired its developers to revamp its development. Speaking during an interview, Dogecoin’s lead developer Ross Nicoll said the team is working to make changes to Doge.

“People say it’s a joke coin but we’re very careful to take care of the code. When it took off there was a resurgence in attention and we want to keep the currency operational.” 

SpaceX was founded in 2002 with the goal of reducing the cost of space transportation by using relaunchable rockets to enable the colonization of Mars.  The company’s first commercial trip around the moon on its Starship rocket will take place in 2023.

Elon Musk previously said that he is highly confident that SpaceX will have reached orbit many times with Starship before 2023, and that it will be safe enough for human transport by 2023.

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