The Lapsus ransomware gang has arrived on the scene and has already claimed several high-profile targets, with victims including Impresa – the largest media conglomerate in Portugal, Brazil’s Ministry of Health (MoH), the Brazilian telecommunications operator Claro, and most recently, the Santa Clara, CA-based GPU vendor NVIDIA.
The Lapsus ransomware gang – also referred to as Lapsus$ – is a relatively new threat actor and is making a reputation for itself in an already crowded ransomware market. Most ransomware gangs now practice double extortion, where prior to encrypting files they exfiltrate sensitive data and threaten to publish the data if the ransom is not paid. Triple extortion tactics are now becoming common, where threats are also issued to notify shareholders, partners, and customers about attacks. The Lapsus gang has taken things a step further still and is boasting about its attacks and causing major embarrassment for victims.
In January, the Lapsus ransomware gang attacked the Brazilian car rental firm Localiza, which is one of the largest car rental firms in South America. In addition to stealing data and encrypting files, the gang redirected the company’s website to an adult website and publicly announced that the company is now a porn site. The redirection was only in place for a few hours, but it was enough to damage the company’s reputation.
Also in January, Impresa was targeted. Impresa is the owner of SIC and Expresso, the largest TV channel and weekly newspaper in Portugal. The attack targeted Impresa’s online IT servers resulting in company websites being taken offline and the temporary loss of Internet streaming services. The gang defaced the company’s websites by adding their ransom note and claimed they had taken control of Impresa’s Amazon Web Services account. The gang then used the hijacked Expresso Twitter account and sent a tweet stating, “Lapsus$ is officially the new president of Portugal.” The gang also gained access to its newsletter and sent phishing emails to subscribers informing them in the emails that the President of Portugal had been murdered.
On February 25, NVIDIA experienced a cyberattack that saw parts of its IT infrastructure taken offline for a couple of days. NVIDIA announced that it was investigating a security incident, and then the Lapsus gang said it was behind the attack and issued a threat to leak around 1TB of data. The gang published screenshots indicating they had leaked password hashes for NVIDIA employees, source code, and highly sensitive proprietary company information.
There was some good news – the Lapsus gang then experienced its own ‘ransomware’ attack. There have been reports in the media that NVIDIA hacked back and gained access to the attackers’ virtual machine and encrypted its data, although security research Marcus Hutchins offered an alternative view, suggesting this could have been due to the gang installing Nvidia’s corporate agent on their virtual machine and then triggering a data loss prevention policy.
In addition to demanding a ransom, the Lapsus ransomware gang also demanded NVIDIA remove its lite hast rate (LHR) limitations on its GeForce 30 series firmware – which halve the hash rate when it detects the GPUs are being used for mining Ethereum – and also requested NVIDIA commits to completely open source their GPU drivers forever. If the demands are not met, the gang said it will release the complete silicon, graphics, and computer chipset files for its most recent GPUs.
While many ransomware gangs are focused purely on extortion, the Lapsus gang appears to like the limelight and brags about their attacks, which makes attacks by the gang even more serious for victims due to the brand and reputation damage they cause.
The extent of the attack vectors used by the gang is not known, but they appear to have used phishing emails to gain access to some victims’ networks, including the attack on Impresa. Phishing is a popular attack vector in ransomware attacks. Around half of all ransomware attacks start with a phishing email, according to a recent Statista survey. Employees respond to phishing emails and disclose their credentials, which give the attackers the foothold in the network they need for a deeper compromise.
Businesses could be lulled into a false sense of security with the disbanding of major ransomware operations and arrests of key gang members. The REvil ransomware gang may be no more, and DarkSide has been shut down, but other ransomware gangs are more than happy to plug the gap. Lapsus only announced its presence on the scene at the start of the year but is already growing into a major threat.
The best defense against Lapsus ransomware attacks and other cyberattacks is to adopt a defense-in-depth strategy. That should include an advanced spam filtering solution to block email phishing attacks, content filtering to prevent employees from visiting malicious websites, multi-factor authentication on all email accounts and local/cloud apps, ensuring patches and software updates are applied promptly, and providing ongoing security awareness training to the workforce to help employees identify and avoid phishing and social engineering attempts.
TitanHQ can help organizations improve their defenses against the full range of cyberattacks by providing advanced cybersecurity solutions for SMBs, enterprises, and Managed Service Providers, including spam filtering, DNS filtering, email encryption, email archiving, and security awareness training.