SamSam ransomware created by Iranian hackers, says US DoJ

Federal government indicts Iranian hackers for launching “SamSam” ransomware

Federal government indicts Iranian hackers for launching “SamSam” ransomware

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said that the SamSam ransomware was a new type and that the defendants' sole objective wasn't just money. "They looked for the institutions that could afford least to have downtime".

The Justice Department alleges the scheme also caused victims more than $30 million in losses.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Criminal Division, accompanied by FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess, left, and U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito for the District of New Jersey, speaks during a news conference announcing the indictment against worldwide computer hackers, at the Department of Justice in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018.

The SamSam ransomware was not as well-known as WannaCry, a computer virus paired with ransomware that in May 2017 affected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries. The ransomware would encrypt data on those computers - rendering that data inaccessible to the victims.

"Treasury is targeting digital currency exchangers who have enabled Iranian cyberactors to profit from extorting digital ransom payments from their victims", said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker in a statement. It's said that they utilized overseas computer infrastructure to help carry out attacks, as well as using "sophisticated online reconnaissance techniques" to scope out potential targets. They were typically told that if they didn't comply within seven days, the decryption keys would be deleted permanently.

In parallel with the indictment of the two, the US Treasury announced sanctions on two other Iranians, Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan, who allegedly aided the hackers by managing the ransom payments by the virtual currency bitcoin.

Though Atlanta refused to pay the anonymous hackers $51,000 in ransom, recovering from the attack is estimated to have cost the city's taxpayers more than $9 million.

"These defendants didn't just indiscriminately cross their fingers and hope their ransomware randomly compromised any computer system".

"Rather, they deliberately engaged in an extreme form of 21st-century digital blackmail, attacking and extorting vulnerable victims like hospitals and schools, victims they knew would be willing and able to pay". The attack prevented hospital staff from accessing selected computer systems and blocking electronic communications, medical center officials said.

An FBI wanted poster is placed before a news conference held at the Justice Department, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, announcing the indictment against global computer hackers.

The case was investigated by a number of law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Crime Agency and the West Yorkshire Police in the United Kingdom, as well as Calgary Police Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. According to the indictment, SamSam ransomware affected more than 200 victims across the USA, including hospitals, city governments, and other organisations.

Benczkowski said Savandi and Mansouri face charges of "conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with computers, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, intentional damage to a protected computer, and, transmitting a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer". None of the charges has been tested in court.

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