The Belgian Federal Police has released free decryption keys for the Cryakl ransomware, after working in close cooperation with Kaspersky Lab.
The keys were obtained during an ongoing investigation; and by sharing the keys with No More Ransom the Belgian Federal Police becomes a new associate partner of the project – the second law enforcement agency to do so after the Dutch National Police.
In the last few years, ransomware has eclipsed most other cyber threats, with global campaigns now indiscriminately affecting organisations across multiple industries in both the public and private sectors, as well as consumers. One of the most effective ways to fight ransomware is to prevent it. This is exactly why No More Ransom was launched more than a year ago.
Today sees yet another successful example of how cooperation between law enforcement and internet security companies can lead to great results. When the Belgian Federal Computer Crime Unit (FCCU) discovered that Belgian citizens had been victims of the Cryakl ransomware, it was able to locate a command and control server in one of Belgium’s neighbouring countries. Led by the federal prosecutor’s office, the Belgian authorities seized this and other servers while forensic analysts worked to retrieve the decryption keys. Kaspersky Lab provided technical expertise to the Belgian federal prosecutor and has now added these keys to the No More Ransom portal on behalf of the Belgian Federal Police. This will allow victims to regain access to their encrypted files without having to pay the criminals.
The Belgian authorities have continued with their investigation.
“Our regular advice in the case of ransomware attacks is: please don’t pay the ransom. A number of cyber security experts work worldwide to help the victims, creating new, previously non-existent tools for decryption. Free decryption keys for Cryakl ransomware can be considered as proof of this policy and yet another reminder that there is always a chance of winning in the fight with criminals,” said Jornt van der Wiel, Security Researcher in the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky Lab.
52 decryption tools available
Since the launch of the No More Ransom portal in July 2016, almost 1.6 million people from more than 180 countries have accessed the website, available in 29 languages with Estonian as the most recent addition.
There are now 52 free decryption tools on www.nomoreransom.org, which can be used to decrypt 84 ransomware families. CryptXXX, CrySIS and Dharma are the most detected infections. More than 35,000 people have managed to retrieve their files for free, which has prevented criminals from profiting from more than EUR 10 million.
The number of partners working together on No More Ransom has risen to more than 120, including more than 75 internet security companies and other private partners. The Cypriot and Estonian police forces are the latest law enforcements agencies to join. KPN, Telenor and The College of Professionals in Information and Computing (CPIC) have also joined as new private sector partners.
Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards
The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.
The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”
Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever Award. She has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).
The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:
The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognition, Age cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.
In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.
Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.
The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.
Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.
“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:
- Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
- Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
- Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.