Ransomware Attack on Australian Utility Claimed by Russian-Speaking Criminals

One of the most heavily Russian-speaking ransomware gangs has claimed credit for a weekend attack on an Australian power utility serving millions of people.

Australian media reported on Monday that hackers from the Chinese government were behind the breach in CS Energy, which is owned by the state of Queensland in northeastern Australia.

Those reports, which came amid high tensions between Australia and China, prompted the utility to issue a statement on Tuesday.

“There is currently no indication that the cyber incident was a state-based attack,” announced CS Energy CEO Andrew Biles in the statement.

Meanwhile, the ransomware group known as Conti, uses the name CS Energy on its website to shame victims and sometimes leak their data.

“Conti listed CS Energy on its leak site, which would clearly indicate that one of its associates was responsible for the attack,” said Brett Callow, a threat analyst at security firm Emsisoft.

The Australian, Daily Mail and other media directly blamed the attacks on China.

But Callow noted that “Conti is believed to be a Russia-based cybercrime operation, not a China-based APT, so it appears that the attack on CS Energy is just an addition to an ever-growing list of financially motivated ransomware attacks.” APT is the security industry shorthand for Advanced Persistent Threat Group, which is often supported by governments.

Like some other ransomware groups, Conti splits the proceeds with associates who breach the target before setting up its program to encrypt computer files and refer victims to Conti to negotiate payments in cryptocurrency. We do.

Conti and other gangs have increased their attacks on utilities, hospitals and other critical infrastructure over the past year. Western officials and researchers have said some of those groups have links to Russian intelligence agencies, but no such allegations have been made against the Chinese.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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