People always ask me if law enforcement is having any luck in combatting cyber criminals. Let me be clear: it is a very tough job to take down cyber criminals located in other countries or sponsored by foreign nations. Our government is focusing on cyber criminals more than I have ever seen before, and the effort is promising.
Not only did the Department of Justice (DOJ) lead an effort to recoup ransomware paid by Colonial Pipeline, but it also just took down (I love that term), with the help of international law enforcement, an online marketplace, Slilpp, that was selling stolen login credentials for banking and online payment platforms.
An unsealed affidavit for a warrant requested by the DOJ states that victims have reported over $200 million in losses in the U.S. The Slilpp marketplace sold login credentials for more than 1,400 account providers before law enforcement took them down.
According to the DOJ: “[W]ith today’s coordinated disruption of the Slilpp marketplace, the FBI and our international partners sent a clear message to those who, as alleged, would steal and traffic in stolen identities: we will not allow cyber threats to go unchecked…. We applaud the efforts of the FBI and our international partners who contributed to the effort to mitigate this global threat.”
The FBI and DOJ are tirelessly chasing cyber criminals and their efforts are paying off for all of us. They deserve huge credit for their persistence and efforts.
It has been reported by Bloomberg Law that the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack was caused by a “single compromised password.” The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack had consumers hoarding gasoline and disrupted distribution of gas along the east coast. One single compromised password.
Colonial Pipeline paid $4.4 million in ransom following the attack, although the Department of Justice (DOJ) was able to recover $2.3 million of that payment by seizing the crypto wallet used by the attackers. A payment of $4.4 million because of one single compromised password.
What is worse is that the account the password was connected to was not an active account, but could still be used to access the network. I am surmising, but this usually happens when someone leaves the company and the account and access is not terminated. The initial user may have used the password across platforms, the password was compromised and obtained by DarkSide on the dark web, and presto!, they can go into Colonial’s system with the valid password undetected.
We constantly are told how important passwords are. I like to use long passphrases. We are told not to use the same passwords across platforms. We are told not to use passwords that are related to anything we post on social media or online platforms. We are told all of this for a reason. Because one compromised password can cause a gas shortage, a meat shortage, contaminated water, millions of dollars paid in ransom, and disruption to our lives. Do your part and focus on password management for yourself personally, as well as for your employer.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts is warning small businesses that received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of a dramatic increase in reports of business email-compromise schemes related to the program. Scammers are using information about PPP recipients posted by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to impersonate PPP lenders requesting additional information about PPP loan applications or loan forgiveness.
In July 2020, the SBA published information about PPP loan recipients, which included business names and addresses for loans greater than $150,000. In December 2020, the SBA released the exact loan amounts for more than 600,000 small businesses and nonprofit organizations that received at least $150,000 in loans. The published data also included the names of entities receiving less than $150,000, which represent about 87 percent of the total number of loans in the program, as well as the name of the lender and distribution date for each loan.
Scammers are using this publicly-available information to send phishing emails to PPP loan recipients, impersonating the recipients’ PPP lenders to request sensitive information, such as email addresses and passwords, Social Security numbers, and financial information. This information could be used to gain access to a business’s computer network to compromise confidential information or for identity theft.
Recipients of PPP loans should carefully review the headers of emails that appear to come from their PPP lenders to ensure that the domain of the sender’s email address matches the domain of other emails received from the lender. They also should use common sense to question whether the lender is likely to be contacting the recipient at that particular time (e.g., in response to an application or loan forgiveness), or whether the timing appears to be unconnected to other communications with the lender. Recipients should not respond to, or click any links, in any suspicious emails; recipients may want to call their lenders if they believe the content or timing of an email is suspicious.
Suspected criminal activity may be reported to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.
ICYMI, on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) issued an update about what it termed “a major incident under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act”: the global SolarWinds cyberattack that had compromised its email system. (SolarWinds is a software provider. In December, 2020, SolarWinds revealed that cybercriminals had injected malware into its Orion® Platform software, a platform used for centralized IT monitoring and management. In doing so, the cybercriminals were able to attack subsequent users of the software, i.e., SolarWinds’ clients, including multiple federal agencies and technology contractors.) The DOJ’s update advised that after removing the malware, it determined that 3 percent of the DOJ’s O365 mailboxes were potentially accessed, albeit there was no indication that any classified systems were impacted. This update was covered by Robinson+Cole’s Data Privacy + Cybersecurity Insider.
Cyber-crime continues to permeate all industries, including real estate development and construction. The SolarWinds incident could just as easily have occurred with a construction management company or general contractor using the construction industry’s various project management software programs. Digital attacks can intercept sensitive information, divert funds and hold hostage a company’s computer systems. Robinson+Cole’s Construction Group is available to discuss the value of adding data privacy and cybersecurity protocols to design and construction agreements, and its Data Privacy + Security Team is available to assist businesses in determining their current risks and liability exposure as well as the benefits of having cyber-liability insurance coverage.
This post was authored by Virginia Trunkes and is also being shared on our Construction Law Zone blog. If you’re interested in getting updates on current developments and recent trends in all areas of construction law, we invite you to subscribe to the blog.
It has been widely reported that hackers are taking advantage of the pandemic to perpetrate scams and frauds. We have seen attacks against workers of companies through phishing emails that include an attachment or link offering information or access to specialized treatment for COVID-19 to lure people to click on them. Once they click on the link or attachment, the attacker infects the system with malware or ransomware. Cyber criminals know that people are concerned about the coronavirus and looking for more information to protect themselves and their family members, and they also are preying on the distraction of working from home.
It has become such a problem that the Department of Justice (DOJ) instructed the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) to gather coronavirus-related complaints from the public and assist with information sharing about scams. The NCDF has received more than 76,000 tips on COVID-19 related wrongdoing, and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has received more than 20,000 tips about suspicious websites and media postings. This doesn’t include the successful phishing campaigns using COVID-19-related information to trick people into clicking on malicious links or attachments.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana issued a reminder this week for “members of the public to be vigilant against fraudsters who are using the COVID-19 pandemic to exploit American consumers and organizations…In particular, the department is warning the public about scams perpetrated through websites, social media, emails, robocalls, and other means that peddle fake COVID-19 vaccines, tests, treatments, and protective equipment, and also about criminals that fabricate businesses and steal identities in order to defraud federal relief programs and state unemployment programs.”
In addition, the notice states “Moving forward, the department also is concerned about, and will aim to deter and prevent, attempts by wrongdoers to prey upon potential victims by leveraging news about anticipated approval of a COVID-19 vaccine or about the potential enactment of new disaster relief bills that extend or expand upon CARES Act relief.”
The notice is a good reminder to each of us personally as well as employees of the continued threat and to need to remain vigilant to combat these scams. The DOJ “encourages the public to continue to report wrongdoing relating to the pandemic to the NCDF and to remain vigilant against bad actors looking to exploit this national emergency.”