Conti Ransomware Attack Prompts Costa Rica Into National Emergency

Conti Ransomware Attack Prompts Costa Rica Into National Emergency
Photo: GagoDesign, Shutterstock

Costa Rica is pulling out all the stops to beat back a vicious ransomware attack from last month as it has publicly announced it will be doing everything it can prevent giving Russian hackers the $US10 ($14) million they’ve demanded.

BleepingComputer first reported that Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chavez, an economist and the country’s former finance minister, announced a national emergency Sunday regarding a devastating April ransomware attack the same day he was sworn into office.

The national emergency allows the state to take further measures to combat the fallout from an April cyberattack that took down the country’s computer systems. The Russian-speaking cyber group Conti claimed responsibility for the attack, with messages threatening further attacks if their demands of $US10 ($14) million weren’t met. Costa Rica has yet to capitulate to demands.

Time reported that the attack impacted the country’s tax collecting services as well as its exports and customs machinery. It impacted its ability to pay public employees as well. The ransomware group stole over 670GB of data and has leaked that information out slowly since that April hack. The country has effectively been operating without digital monetary services since April 18. How the country will use the national emergency declaration to face those issues remains to be seen.

The United States has been working to stop these attacks and find those responsible. The Department of State announced last Friday they were offering up to $US15 ($21) million for information related to the Conti ransomware gang. Conti hackers have previously targeted U.S.-based healthcare services and threatened to go after any opponents of Russia due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The Russian-speaking hackers are not confirmed to be affiliated with any government, but leaked internal chats showed that members were very supportive of Russian President Vladamir Putin.

Ransomware attacks have proved debilitating for multiple institutions, including for Lincoln College in Illinois that announced it would have to shut down after it suffered an attack in December. Last week, agricultural equipment maker AGCO was hit with ransomware. Schreiber Foods experienced an attack last year, resulting in Cream Cheese shortages, while Coca-Cola has also been on the receiving end of a ransomware theft of 161GB of data by separate Pro-Kremlin gang Stormous. Another Conti ransomware hack could cost the Irish Health Service $US100 ($139) million to clean up.

But still, international and state governments have been putting their foot down and have declared they will not capitulate to demands, even as ransomware attacks become more common.

The national emergency is just one of several new initiatives by the new Costa Rican president, including an end to mask and vaccine mandates with the exception of health personnel.