Blackcat Ransomware Turns off Servers Amid Claim They Stole $22 Million Ransom

BleepingComputer has uncovered new developments regarding the ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware gang's activities. According to reports, the gang has taken the drastic step of shutting down its servers amidst accusations of defrauding an affiliate out of a staggering $22 million. This affiliate is believed to have been responsible for the attack on Optum's Change Healthcare platform.

The shutdown of negotiation sites and messaging platforms indicates a deliberate move by the gang to disrupt their own infrastructure. However, the motive behind this action remains unclear. Some speculate that it could be an exit scam, while others suggest it might signal an impending rebranding effort.

Security Officer Comments:
The situation escalated when an individual claiming to be a long-time affiliate of ALPHV/BlackCat alleged that the gang had banned them from the operation and misappropriated the $22 million ransom paid by Optum. This individual, operating under the username "notchy," asserted that they still possessed critical data from Change Healthcare, which could have widespread implications for both Change Healthcare and Optum clients.

To substantiate their claims, notchy provided details of cryptocurrency transactions involving substantial sums, further implicating the gang in fraudulent activities. Notably, these transactions suggest a pattern of deceitful behavior aimed at extorting large sums from victims.

Suggested Corrections:
Backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.

Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk- based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.

Test your incident response plan: There's nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?

Check Your Security Team's Work: Use a 3rd party pen tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.

Segment your networks: There's been a recent shift in ransomware attacks – from stealing data to disrupting operations. It's critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised. Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident.

Train employees: Email remains the most vulnerable attack vector for organizations. Users should be trained how to avoid and spot phishing emails. Multi Factor authentication can help prevent malicious access to sensitive services.