Hackers Target COVID-19 Research Firm To Demand Ransomware

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In the middle of a world crisis caused by the Coronavirus or COVID-19, a group of hackers known as Maze has infected the infrastructure of a firm that was researching COVID-19, to demand a ransom in exchange for the data stolen. According to the cybersecurity firm, Emsisoft, the Maze group compromised a United Kingdom medical firm known as Hammersmith Medicines Research. The hackers stole sensitive data regarding medical test volunteers, such as identification documents, medical background, and details of the tests the subjects were put through. According to Emsisoft threat analyst, Brett Callow:

The data is on the clear web where it can be accessed by anybody with an internet connection… The criminals almost certainly haven’t published all the data that was stolen. Their modus operandi is to first name the companies they’ve hit on their website and, if that doesn’t convince them to pay, to publish a small amount of their data — which is the stage this incident appears to be at — as so-called proofs.

Luckily, the Hammersmith Medicines Research was able to restore its system by the end of the day. Additionally, it appears that the data published by the hackers is no longer available to on the website:  

Note that, since the ComputerWeekly report ran, the data stolen from HMR has been ‘temporarily removed’ from the criminals’ website… But here’s the problem. Other criminals download the data posted on these leak sites and use it for their own purposes.

The Maze group demanded around $1 million in BTC in exchange for the information and to restore access to the data, and another $1 million in BTC to delete the copy of the data they had made and to stop publishing it. This is not the first time this group demanded a ransom on people’s data. The Maze group was also responsable for hacking over five United States law firms and demanded 200 BTC in exchange for restoring data and deleting their copy. 

The Coronavirus has infected more than 370,000 people around the globe and has caused the death of over 16,000. Research firms are critical to finding a cure, and their information is vital for scientists to continue developing a potential vaccine for the terrible COVID-19.

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