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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

AMC Theatres to Start Accepting Ethereum, Litecoin, And Bitcoin Cash In Addition To Bitcoin By Year-End

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AMC Theatres to Start Accepting Ethereum, Litecoin, And Bitcoin Cash In Addition To Bitcoin By Year-End

The world’s leading movie theatre chain will be accepting Litecoin, Ethereum, and Bitcoin Cash in addition to Bitcoin as payments for confectionaries and movie tickets at all its U.S. outlets before December 31.

This is according to a Twitter announcement made by the Company’s C.E.O Adam Aron on Thursday morning sending out a wave of bullish sentiments on the three cryptocurrencies by crypto enthusiasts.

“Cryptocurrency enthusiasts: you likely know AMCTheatres has announced we will accept Bitcoin for online ticket and concession payments by year-end 2021. I can confirm today that when we do so, we also expect that we similarly will accept Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash.” 

Last month, the C.E.O in an early morning earnings call had disclosed that AMC was actively engaged in setting up payment systems that would allow movie enthusiasts to pay for various services and purchases using Bitcoin. He had also acknowledged receiving a lot of inquiries from users and shareholders on the possibility of the company accepting payments in crypto which could have largely informed Thursday’s announcement.

Although Litecoin foundation did not respond to the statement in writing, Litecoin’s news page and Charlie Lee, the founder of Litecoin retweeted AMCs announcement gesturing their affirmation.

Broadening the crypto payments net

Litecoin has been making inroads in institutional halls thanks to its long-term persistence and reliability. Its completed MWEB upgrade project which allows the network to become much more scalable and make transaction amounts un-viewable to the public makes Litecoin the ideal choice for payments while protecting users’ data.

According to the Litecoin Foundations Q1 report, various companies have already announced that they’re integrating Litecoin including Paypal, Vaultoro, Flare Network, Moon among others. Its successful payment integrations have also attracted a fair share of challenges with a recent false report that Walmart was integrating Litecoin in its payment network.

Bitcoin cash which fulfills the original promise of Bitcoin as “Peer-to-peer electronic cash” could also see mass use given its fast transactions, low fees, and reliable confirmation. It also allows use on a large list of wallets including Ledger and Trezor among others, which are synonymous with most U.S. crypto owners. Its discounts on payments due to the elimination of credit cards are likely to attract most AMC movie enthusiasts looking to pay using this method.

On the other hand, Ethereum payments to the company could be fulfilled through Ethereum-Pay,  a decentralized ERC-1363 payable token built on the secure Ethereum network specifically tailored to be integrated with E-commerce transactions. 

EthereumPay creates a universal payment platform that allows merchants & users around the world to do business with each other instantly and cheaper than ever. Ethereum payments are accepted by companies including Sotheby, Overstock, Gipsybee,  Shopify CheapAir, Tripio among others.

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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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