Russian cybercrime syndicate threaten to release damaging info about US police

A Russian cybercrime syndicate has threatened to release sensitive US police information that it stole unless it is paid more money in a ransomware attack.

The so-called ‘Babuk’ group were reportedly in negotiations with Washington DC police over data the group had stolen and were threatening to release.

On Monday night, the group said it would release ‘all the data’ it had stolen unless the Washington police ‘raised the price’.

‘The negotiations reached a dead end, the amount we were offered does not suit us,’ the group said.

The Washington DC police department have not released a statement, and it is unknown whether they partook in any negotiations regarding the stolen data or whether the allegations of hacked data are true.

Ransomware attacks have rocketed in number over the pandemic, with even well-organised institutions like the police being targeted for attacks.

Ransomware typically describes the process of either installing software on computer systems that disable the systems until payment is made, or the demand for payment in exchange for the return of hacked data.

The extortion threat comes amid a separate ransomware attack on a major pipeline that’s affected part of the US’s fuel supply, highlighting the power of internet-savvy criminal gangs to sow mayhem from remote and undisclosed locations.

The Babuk group posted screenshots of the data it reportedly held, including what appeared to be disciplinary files of police officers.

The group first announced they had stolen data from the city’s police department late last month, when it reportedly hacked into the Washington police’s systems. At the time, it threatened to leak the identities of confidential informants unless an unspecified ransom was paid.

One day after the initial threat was posted, the criminal gang attempted to spark payment by leaking the personal information of some officers taken from background checks, like details of officers’ past drug use, finances and sexual assault.

Ransomware gangs have been leaking sensitive data from victims for well over a year, but experts said they have not seen such aggressive new tactics used before against police departments.

The cybercriminal mafias mostly operate in foreign safe havens out of the reach of western law enforcement.

The Biden administration has said that curbing ransomware attacks is a top priority, saying they are a threat to national security.

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