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



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%. 


Central African Republic Becomes First African Country To Adopt Bitcoin As Legal Tender 

The new bill provides a framework for use of cryptocurrencies in smart contracts, payments systems, online trade, and all electronic transactions alongside the CFA franc currency. 



Central African Republic Becomes First African Country To Adopt Bitcoin As Legal Tender

Bitcoin continued to garner attention globally as a national legal tender with Central African Republic becoming the latest suitor. President Faustin-Archange Touadéra signed the bill into law on Wednesday and his chief of staff Obed Namsio hailed the move as one that could forever change the economic fabric of a country that has been embroiled in rebel violence for many years now.

Namsio said the bill was supported by the president because it would improve the citizens’ status. He added it would open up new economic opportunities for the landlocked country. The new bill provides a framework for use of cryptocurrencies in smart contracts, payments systems, online trade, and all electronic transactions alongside the CFA franc currency. 

“This move places the Central African Republic on the map of the world’s boldest and most visionary countries,” he said. 

Traders will also be capable of paying taxes with crypto and the finance minister Gourna Zacko who introduced the bill, believes it will ease cross-border transfers that have become increasingly difficult to do. These transfers will now become very cheap. Citizens will also be capable of undertaking legal financial transactions in the mainstream financial realms using crypto, and without necessarily going through middlemen banks. Cryptocurrency exchanges will not be taxed.   

The bill has clauses that prescribe up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of between 100 million to 1 billion CFA francs for anyone who breaks the crypto law. 

With a per capita income of only 750 USD per year, the country is one of the poorest in the region and world as a result of years of conflicts and war. This is despite having a vast amount of gold and diamond reserves. 

The country would, however, have to pursue an aggressive Internet coverage agenda to make this plan effective. It currently has an Internet penetration rate of just 7.1 percent and 355,000 Internet users out of a total population of 4.97 million people.   

It is not clear if and how the new move would help alleviate the country’s ailing inflation or GDP. Inflation has increased from 2.7 percent in 2019 to 3.3 in 2021. The country’s GDP also flipped to the negative last year at -0.6 from a 3.1 in 2019. Despite relying heavily on agriculture and mining, illegal gold and diamond exports undermine government revenue. The country is also embroiled in bad political and economic decisions, conflicts, and insecurity.  

The bill that governs use of cryptocurrency as legal tender in the country was unanimously adopted by the parliament last week. However, the move was not approved by the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) which governs the Central African CFA franc regional currency used by the country and about 14 others. The franc is tied to the Euro and largely controlled by the West. Two ministers said the move to adopt Bitcoin as a national currency was a serious offense. 

The move was also criticized by former Prime Minister Martin Ziguele who said it was not a priority for the country, and that it was undermining the CFA franc. The decision could also be challenged in court by some legislators.      

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Cardano’s Charles Hoskinson wants to work with Elon Musk to develop a decentralized social media platform



Cardano's Charles Hoskinson wants to work with Elon Musk to develop a Decentralized social media platform

The Founder of Cardano (ADA) has invited Tesla owner and billionaire, Elon Musk, to work with him in developing the first decentralized social media platform. Charles Hoskinson, who also doubles up as the CEO of Input-Output Global is offering to help Elon Musk achieve his goal of free speech on social media.

The news follows Elon Musk’s acquisition of a stake in Twitter last week. The Billionaire bought 9.2% of Twitter, estimated at $2.89 Billion, and was even offered a seat on the micro-blogging site’s board. However, after deliberations, Elon passed on the offer since it would bar him from owning beyond a certain threshold of Twitter’s shares.

Free speech advocate

Elon Musk is on record for being a passionate supporter of free speech and open internet policies. He has in the past openly accused Twitter of muzzling free speech and open internet use. He recently held a poll that indicated that most users would prefer an edit button on Twitter and said that if he is not allowed to acquire the platform, he would have to reconsider his position as a major shareholder of Twitter.

To actualize this cause, he has offered to acquire the platform for a reported fee of $43 Billion in cash. This intended acquisition has left his critics and supporters talking and would go a long way in helping him bring much-needed changes to Twitter. His intention has however come under fire with his critics, including Dogecoin co-founder, Jackson Palmer saying that Elon Musk is planning a hostile takeover of Twitter. 

Hoskinson’s offer to Elon Musk

Upon seeing the opposition against Elon Musk’s plan, Hoskinson wooed Elon to join him in creating a decentralized social media platform. He tweeted:

“@Elon if Twitter rejects your offer, then hit me up. Happy to build a decentralized one.”

This offer follows Elon Musk’s Twitter poll where he sought the opinion of his 80 million followers about a decentralized social media platform. He posited that were he to be barred from acquiring Twitter, he would establish his decentralized platform that would be founded on free speech and open internet.

Elon Musk’s campaign for free speech and open internet has not been welcomed by all. Some of his critics have argued that coating his move with good intentions, his true intention is to get revenge against the SEC for muzzling his Twitter activities.

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