Hackers Hit Food Supply Company

The attackers behind the REvil ransomware family has also threatened to release personal data on Madonna and other celebrities to the highest bidders.

5 Min Read

The attackers who leaked sensitive information on Lady Gaga last week after breaking into systems belonging to a law firm with a long list of celebrity clients, are now threatening to do the same with data from food supplier Harvest Sherwood Food Distributors.

According to security vendor DarkOwl, data posted on a Tor hidden service called the Happy Blog shows that the operators of the REvil (aka Sodinokibi) ransomware family are holding Sherwood to ransom by stealing critical data from the company and threatening to disclose it publicly.

DarkOwl said its analysis shows the attackers have managed to steal some 2,600 files from Sherwood. The stolen data includes cash-flow analysis, distributor data, business insurance content, and vendor information. Included in the dataset are scanned images of driver's licenses of people in Sherwood's distribution network.

The threat actors posted screen shots of a chat they had with Coveware, a ransomware mitigation firm that Sherwood had hired to help deal with the crisis. The conversation shows that Sherwood has been dealing with the attack since at least May 3rd , according to DarkOwl's research. The screenshots also suggest that Sherwood at one point was willing to pay $4.25 million and later $7.5 million to get its data back. In an emailed statement, a Sherwood spokeswoman said the company does not comment on active criminal investigations.

Harvest Sherwood is the second company in recent days that the REvil group is believed to have compromised. On May 11, celebrity law firm Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks (GSM) announced that attackers had broken into its systems and was holding hostage 756GB of sensitive data belonging to numerous high profile individuals. Among the impacted individuals were Lady Gaga, Madonna, Elton John, Barbara Streisand, Robert De Niro, Bruce Springsteen, Priyanka Chopra, and Drake. Researchers have since attributed the attacks to REvil.

The attackers initially demanded $21 million from GSM for the data. When the law firm refused to pay up, the threat group released over 2GB of sensitive data including contract information, confidentiality agreements, identifying information and medical reports pertaining to Lady Gaga. They also raised the ransom, amount to $42 million.

According to DarkOwl, on Monday the attackers updated Happy Blog with news of their plan to next auction off personal data belonging to Madonna. The attackers have set an initial bidding price of $1 million. They also claimed to have sensitive data on President Donald J. Trump via the attack on GSM, but apparently already have a buyer for it, DarkOwl says.

Mark Turnage, CEO of DarkOwl, says his company's analysis of data leaked online show it is authentic. Trump himself is not a client of GSM, but he and his associates are mentioned in several emails in the stolen data set. "There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the leaked information on either Lady Gaga or Trump," Turnage says.

While the emails mentioning Trump are quite superfluous, the data pertaining to Lady Gaga and Sherwood contain sensitive financial data, confidentiality agreements, and personally identifiable information (PII) such as addresses, phone, email, and signatures, Turnage says.

"Criminals could use the information from Lady Gaga to glean insight on her inner circle such as the security details she uses abroad, as well as her vendors and producers," he notes. Not only could the PII and financial information be exploited, Gaga could also be at a higher risk for future tours and international travel. The Trump emails, meanwhile, could pose political damage from the media coverage.

Prolific Malware

ReEvil is one of the most prolific ransomware families currently in the wild. The ransomware first surfaced in April 2019 and has been linked to numerous attacks on municipal governments and other organizations. Its victims have included foreign exchange firm Travelex, which ended up paying $2.3 million to get its data back.

The group behind the malware has been offering it to multiple threat actors via a ransomware-as-a-service model. Security researchers have described the malware as being distributed in a variety of ways including phishing emails, spam, by exploiting a bug in Oracle WebLogic and through compromised managed security service providers. According to DarkOwl, the authors of REvil and their associates have also been widely distributing the malware through malicious JavaScript on WordPress sites.

Troublingly for organizations, the operators of REvil/Sodinokibi are among a growing number of ransomware groups that have also begun to steal data and then threaten victims with exposure if the ransom is not paid. According to Coveware, other groups engaged in a similar practice include those behind Maze, DopplePaymer, Mespinoza, Netwalker, and CLoP ransomware families.

Jonathan Knudsen, senior security strategist at Synopsys, says incidents like the attack on GSM highlight how few options victim of ransomware have in these situations."The two risks are losing access to data, and having data made public or sold to an adversary," he says. "Paying a ransom might restore access, but if attackers have a copy of your data, you can never be sure that it won't be published, redistributed, sold or leaked."

So rather than focusing on how to respond to a ransomware attack after one has happened, organizations of all sizes in all industries must take a proactive approach to minimize risk of such an attack, he says. "Appropriate proactive steps would include regular, comprehensive backups, and security training to minimize the risk of phishing attacks or credential theft."


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About the Author(s)

Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year career at Computerworld, Jai also covered a variety of other technology topics, including big data, Hadoop, Internet of Things, e-voting, and data analytics. Prior to Computerworld, Jai covered technology issues for The Economic Times in Bangalore, India. Jai has a Master's degree in Statistics and lives in Naperville, Ill.

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