Russian Conti Ransomware Gang Threatens to Overthrow New Costa Rican Government

The notorious Conti ransomware gang, which last month staged an attack on Costa Rican administrative systems, has threatened to “overthrow” the new government of the country.

“We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power,” the group said on its official website. “We have our insiders in your government. We are also working on gaining access to your other systems, you have no other options but to pay us.”

In a further attempt to increase pressure, the Russian-speaking cybercrime syndicate has raised its ransom demand to $20 million in return for a decryption key to unlock their systems.

Another message posted on its dark web portal over the weekend issued a warning stating it will delete the decryption keys in a week, a move that would make it impossible for Costa Rican to recover access to the files encrypted by the ransomware.

“I appeal to every resident of Costa Rican, to go to your government and organize rallies so that they would pay us as soon as possible if your current government cannot stabilize the situation? Maybe it’s worth changing it?,” the message read.

The devastating attack, which took place on April 19, has caused the new government to declare a state of emergency, while the group has leaked troves of data stolen from the infected systems prior to encryption.

Conti attributed the intrusion to an affiliate actor dubbed “UNC1756,” mimicking the moniker threat intelligence firm Mandiant assigns to uncategorized threat groups.

Affiliates are hacking groups who rent access to already-developed ransomware tools to orchestrate intrusions into corporate networks as part of what’s called a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) gig economy, and then split the earnings with the operators.

Linked to a threat actor known as Gold Ulrick (aka Grim Spider or UNC1878), Conti has continued to target entities across the world despite suffering a massive data leak of its own earlier this year in the wake of its public support to Russia in the country’s ongoing war against Ukraine.

Microsoft’s security division, which tracks the cybercriminal group under the cluster DEV-0193, called Conti the “most prolific ransomware-associated cybercriminal activity group active today.”

“DEV-0193’s actions and use of the cybercriminal gig economy means they often add new members and projects and utilize contractors to perform various parts of their intrusions,” Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) said.

“As other malware operations have shut down for various reasons, including legal actions, DEV-0193 has hired developers from these groups. Most notable are the acquisitions of developers from EmotetQakbot, and IcedID, bringing them to the DEV-0193 umbrella.”

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