A provider of information technology services for the top United States space agency has fallen victim to a ransomware attack. Just a few days after the historic launch of a Dragon space capsule with two American astronauts who ultimately docked with the International Space Station, NASA officials reported about a cyber attack targeting Digital Management, Inc., a private contractor that mostly provides web portals and intranet platforms for government agencies as well as Fortune 100 companies.
DMI was apparently hit with DopplePaymer, a new ransomware strain that appears to target specific files. Some of the documents in possession of the hackers responsible for this attack include human resources dossiers and plans for future projects. In addition to a ransom demand to be paid in cryptocurrency, the attackers have upped the ante by leaking some of the files to the public.
The ransomware attack seems to have been widespread. More than 2,800 servers managed by DMI were compromised. As with similar attacks, files were encrypted with various layers of cryptography, and the attackers are offering to unlock these files in exchange for ransom payments; otherwise, more blackmail will take place in the form of documents leaked to the public or sold in digital black markets. The risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands is always considered in these kinds of attacks; political operatives and espionage agencies are known to frequent Dark Web marketplaces in search of files that can benefit their operations.
Cryptocurrency security analysts are already working with DMI and NASA to mitigate the effects of this ransomware attack. Even though traditional ransom payments and blackmail are usually settled by fiat currency, the digital currency community is rightfully concerned about the rise in ransomware attacks that demand payments in ultra-secure tokens such as Monero. The image of cryptocurrency exchanges is still tied to the days of Silk Road, the Dark Web marketplace where controlled substances were bought and sold through transactions settled with Bitcoin.
In the near future, we can expect established cryptocurrency exchanges collaborating more closely with law enforcement and intelligence agencies in order to crack down on the use of tokens for ransom demands and other digital crimes.