"Merciful hackers" are loyal in discussing ransom money and are ready to provide each victim with individual options.
A new group of cybercriminals called Akira has been attacking corporate networks around the world in recent months, encrypting files and demanding ransoms up to several million dollars. Akira representatives say they have already carried out attacks on sixteen companies from various industries since March this year, including education, finance, real estate, manufacturing and consulting.
While a ransomware virus with the same name already existed in 2017, it is unlikely that these operations are related. Akira ransomware sample discovered by MalwareHunterTeam deletes Windows shadow copies on the device on startup and then proceeds to file encryption process, skipping files found in some system folders such as Recycle Bin, System Volume Information, Boot , "ProgramData" and "Windows".
The virus also avoids encrypting Windows system files with the extensions ".exe", ".lnk", ".dll", ".msi" and ".sys" and is also capable of stopping system processes or services that may interfere with encryption.
The virus adds the “.akira” extension to already encrypted files. For example, a file named "Report.doc" will be encrypted and renamed to "Report.doc.akira".
When the attackers obtain the credentials of a Windows domain administrator, they also launch the virus throughout the corporate network, effectively infecting all connected devices. Like many other ransomware gangs, prior to the actual encryption process, cybercriminals steal corporate data to use as additional leverage.
At the end of the encryption, the malware places a ransom note called “akira_readme.txt” in every folder on the computer. It contains information about what happened to the victim's files and leads to a data breach site where it is possible to open a chat with criminals using a unique identifier and password.
“In regards to the stolen data, if we cannot agree, we will try to sell your personal information / trade secrets / databases / source codes - anything that has any value on the black market. And then all the data will be published on our blog,” black hackers threaten in their note.
The Akira gang put a lot of effort into their data breach site, giving it a retro look and navigating like terminal interfaces.
At the time of this writing, Akira has published the details of four victims on its data breach website. The size of the leaked data varies from 6 GB to 260 GB. Ransom demands are also adjusted individually by cyberthugs, depending on the size of the company and the amount of data stolen. The minimum ransom requested was reportedly $200,000 and the maximum ransom was several million.
Experts do not yet recommend paying ransomware to attackers, as the malware is still being analyzed, and perhaps, as is the case with many other ransomware programs, it will be possible to develop a decryptor capable of recovering encrypted data for free.
However, the hackers seem to have foreseen this option, so they are ready to lower the ransom requirements for companies that do not need a decryptor and simply want to prevent the public leakage of stolen data.