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85,000 MySQL Servers Hit in Active Ransomware Campaign

Attackers pressure victims into paying ransom by publishing and offering for sale data stolen in a campaign that dates back to January.

An active ransomware campaign targeting MySQL database servers is pressuring victims into paying ransom by posting and selling stolen information on the Dark Web, researchers report.

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The campaign, which Guardicore Labs calls "Please_Read_Me," started as early as January 2020. At least 85,000 servers have been breached so far. Since multiple databases are usually stolen from a single victim, the attackers have 250,000 databases offered for sale in their dashboards.

The first attack was detected on Jan. 24; since then, a total of 92 attacks have been reported by Guardicore's sensors. Attacks originate from 11 different IP addresses, most of which are from Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Two variants of this campaign have been observed this year. In the first, which ran from January through the end of November, attackers left a ransom note with their wallet address, amount of Bitcoin to pay, and an email address for "technical support." A total of $24,906 in Bitcoin was transferred to the attackers' wallets. 

Attackers stepped up their game for the second phase, which started on Oct. 3 and lasted through the end of November. Victims were no longer asked to pay directly to a Bitcoin wallet, and there were no email communication. The attackers launched a website on Tor where victims could pay and where they also leaked databases belonging to victims who didn't pay. This site lists the 250,000 databases, which hold 7TB of stolen information. 

Researchers call the attack chain "extremely simple." The attackers start with a password brute-force on the MySQL service. Once they succeed, they run a series of queries in the database and collect data on existing tables and users. By the end, the target's data is archived in a zipped file, which is sent to the attackers' server and deleted from the database.

There are nearly 5 million Internet-facing MySQL servers worldwide, researchers note. 

Read the full Guardicore Labs write-up for more details.

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