Effects of the Hive Ransomware Group Takedown

Despite some success in limiting damage from Hive, there's no time to relax security vigilance.

Tyler Farrar, CISO, Exabeam

April 26, 2023

4 Min Read
The word "ransomware" with a skull and key
Source: marcos alvarado via Alamy Stock Photo

The government prioritizes the takedown of certain malicious groups based on a variety of factors, including access to a threat actor's computer network(s), and the level of threat they pose to national security and public safety.

Earlier this year, the FBI announced it had taken down the infamous Hive ransomware group. This ransomware group is considered dangerous because of its attempts to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from its victims. The group was also responsible for over 80 attacks on critical infrastructure organizations in 2022, according to the FBI's "2022 Internet Crime Report."

Now with time to reflect on the details of Hive's dismantlement, what are some takeaways security professionals should know? Let's dive in:

Learning From RaaS Groups

By taking the time to study criminal ransomware groups' behaviors, organizations can extract information on how to avoid becoming a victim. For example, by obtaining the decryption keys of a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) group, the government could potentially gain insight into its operations and infrastructure — including information on funding sources, recruitment methods, and the individuals behind the group. This detail can be used to disrupt and dismantle the group's operations, as well as to identify and indict the individuals involved in the group.

To help organizations learn more about these groups and related threats, the government might consider passing some details to companies by redacting sensitive information, or by sharing information strictly on a need-to-know basis. If information is provided in a general format that doesn't reveal specific details about the group, the government could work with companies to develop and implement security measures that could protect from similar RaaS attacks in the future.

Criminal organizations and lone-wolf cybercriminals often adapt to evade detection and continue their illegal activities. There's always a possibility that the individuals behind the Hive operations eventually will reappear under a different name with alternative methods. The FBI has been seeking to identify key members of the group, disrupt their funding sources, and seize assets that would make it difficult to continue their operations. It's important to note that the fight against cybercrime is an ongoing process, and it's not always possible to eliminate a group or organization. Therefore, it's crucial for law enforcement to remain vigilant.

Tackling the Organized Cybercriminal Requires a Multidisciplinary Approach

But just as technologies have evolved to address specific concerns and tactics, adversaries also have evolved.

The proliferation of cloud computing and a dramatic increase in remote working means that security can't be viewed as a "nice-to-have." It's a necessary tool for protecting business interests and securing growth regardless of an organization's size.

However, even with the growing investments in cybersecurity, organizations are still falling victim to breaches via one of the most common methods: compromised credentials. Some 90% of security professionals are still struggling to detect when credentials are compromised. As a result, minimizing the risks associated with compromised credentials should be top of mind for all security leaders. Using tools such as behavioral analytics to create a baseline of normal user behavior can detect compromised credentials before professional-level cybercriminals or an amateur hacker has the chance to cause damage. Solutions with behavioral analytics baked-in also create a holistic view of incidents to uncover anomalies faster and have more accurate and repeatable steps to detect future threats.

It's important to remember that technology is only one piece of the security puzzle. Employee training is also essential, along with a meticulously curated and tested incident-response plan. This response plan should include communication with law enforcement and customers or partner organizations that could be affected by a threat actor. The partnership between private sector organizations and law enforcement was likely a key factor in the Hive takedown.

In the past few years, ransomware has frequently been in the headlines because of security teams and organizations failing to take the appropriate steps to build a formidable defense for their network. To defend against ransomware attacks, companies should invest in modern security solutions and implement advanced security awareness training programs for employees. These solutions can help them understand how to identify a suspicious link, email, or message. With a plan in place, leaders and security professionals have a step-by-step playbook to help them address incidents.

Ransomware gangs are like weeds. When one is taken down, others pop up in its place., the biggest takeaways that security professionals should learn from the government's initiatives to stop Hive are that collaboration, with the right security tools, training, and incident-response plans, are key. By taking the time to learn from RaaS groups and making the right security investments, security teams will be able to have the upper hand.

About the Author(s)

Tyler Farrar

CISO, Exabeam

Tyler Farrar is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Exabeam. In this role, he is responsible for protecting Exabeam — its employees, customers, and data assets — against present and future digital threats. Farrar also leads efforts in supporting current and prospective customers’ move to the Exabeam cloud-native New-Scale SIEM and security operations platform by helping them to address cloud security compliance barriers. With over 15 years of broad and diversified technical experience, Farrar is recognized as a business-focused and results-oriented leader with a proven track record of advancing organizational security programs.

Prior to Exabeam, Farrar was responsible for the strategy and execution of the information security program at Maxar Technologies, which included security operations, infrastructure governance, cyber assurance, and USG program protection functions. As a former naval officer, he managed multiple projects and cyber operations for a multimillion-dollar US Department of Defense program.

Farrar earned an MBA from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. He also holds a variety of technical and professional certifications, including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification.

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