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Ransomwares evolving: Cybercriminals collaborating and auctioning data

These auction websites are quite beneficial for these hackers, first by creating a potential of monetization and second by putting additional pressure on the victims to pay up the ransom.

Ransomware are soon becoming the most feared disease of cyber-world, started from simple encryption of the victim's computer and files, they have now evolved to stealing and selling data. But it's not limited to just that, now these stolen data will be auctioned off to the highest bidder if the ransom is not paid.


Sodinokibi/REvil group recently launched its auction website from its own blog. Their first debut was an auction of files retrieved (stolen) from a Canadian agriculture company whose ransom was not paid. The starting bid - $50,000 Monero cryptocurrency.

These auction websites are quite beneficial for these hackers, first by creating potential of monetization and second by putting additional pressure on the victims to pay up the ransom. Even governments and cybersecurity vendors spend millions for this kind of data, employing people to lurk the dark web for sensitive data on elite class. Now, they can directly buy this from these auction sites.

The REvil group was also rumored to sell files on pop singer Madonna which they hacked from entertainment law firm Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks.

Brett Callow, a threat analyst at Emsisoft says, “The auctions may be less about directly creating revenue than they are about upping the ante for future victims. Having their data published on an obscure site is bad enough, but the prospect of it being auctioned and sold to competitors or other criminal enterprises may chill companies to the bone and provide them with an additional incentive to meet the criminals’ demands.” 

He further thinks that soon other ransomware groups will follow REvil with their own auction schemes.

“REvil’s launch of [an] online auction was, in many ways, a logical and inevitable progression as ransomware groups constantly seek out new ways to monetize attacks and apply additional pressure to companies,” Callow said. “In the same way that other ransomware groups adopted [the Maze ransomware group’s] encrypt-and-exfiltrate strategy, it’s almost inevitable that other groups will also adopt REvil’s encrypt-exfiltrate-and-auction strategy.”

Joining Forces

Another tactic by these groups is joining forces, the idea of helping each other, and increasing their threat value. The infamous Maze ransomware has partnered with LockBit (not many financial details have been shared) and they even published LockBut's stolen data on their own data leak website.

Maze also announced that they are in talks with another ransomware group and may collaborate with a third ransomware operation.
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