SamSam Ransomware hackers that pocketed millions in bitcoin indicted in Atlanta

Over the past few years, SamSam has wreaked havoc on victims spanning the entire globe. SamSam is a type of malware called ransomware that blocks users access to their own networks and computers until is a ransom is paid to the attacker.

SamSam was created to be used in targeted attacks, and the scammers used brute-force tactics along with deceiving communications to the victims to convince them to give up their bitcoin. To execute the SamSam ransomware attack, cyber criminals exploit common computer network vulnerabilities. Once the network is breached the attackers copy the SamSam ransomware into the network.

US assistant attorney general Brian Benczkowski said that the crime is unique, but a new spin on old tricks.  “The allegations in the indictment unsealed today – the first of its kind – outline an Iran-based international computer hacking and extortion scheme that engaged in a 21st-Century digital blackmail.”

Iranians Faramarz Shahi Savandi and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri were identified by the FBI as the perpetrators and the indictment tells the story of how these cyber crooks operated for over 3 years.

The pair caused over 30 million dollars worth of damage and made off with 6 million in ransom payments.

The FBI described the crimes as invasive and malicious.  “Once in the network, these cyber actors use the SamSam ransomware to gain administrator rights that allow them to take control of a victim’s servers and files, without the victim’s authorization.  The cyber actors then demand a ransom be paid in bitcoin in order for a victim to regain access and control of its own network.”

According to the FBI, the criminals thought they were covering themselves by using Bitcoin, but it actually made law enforcement’s job a little easier.  “They used bitcoin to avoid detection, but this case shows that the digital currency can be traceable.”

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been long associated with criminals and other possible unsavory actors partly due to the use of cryptocurrency that Silk Road users took part in. However, as more crimes like this get prosecuted, many are slowly realizing that Bitcoin is not just a tool to optimize bad actions.

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