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CRI | May 13, 2022

Costa Rica imposes SOE amid cyberattack

/ Our Today

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A hooded man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File)

Costa Rica has declared a State of Emergency (SOE), after a gang of cybercriminals crippled the country’s IT systems to extort millions of dollars from the government.

President Rodrigo Chaves, who was sworn in on Sunday, made the emergency declaration one of his first acts. It was published yesterday (May 12) but Chaves has not named the members of the National Emergency Commission.

The declaration came days after the criminals published a large amount of stolen data on social media sites, rendering IT systems unusable across several industries. As such, Costa Rica has been suffering a month of crippling ransomware attacks.

This is the first time a country has declared an SOE in response to a cyberattack. The country’s finance ministry was the first to report the attack after it found tax and social security systems malfunctioning.

Russian-speaking Conti gang claiming responsibility

The Russian-speaking Conti gang, which claimed responsibility for the attack, initially demanded a US$10 million ransom and published the data hours after the government missed the deadline for the payment. The criminals claim they have stolen 672 gigabytes (GB) of data in the massive attack that reportedly took place in the third week of April.

Last week, the US State Department offered a US$15 million reward for information leading to the identification or location of Conti leaders. In offering this reward, the White House says this demonstrates America’s commitment to protecting potential ransomware victims around the world from exploitation by cybercriminals.

The FBI reports that Conti ‘cyber gang’ members have carried out hundreds of such attacks over the past two years and received more than US$150 million in ransom payments. The Costa Rican government has not reported an expansion of the attack, but some systems, especially at the finance ministry, are still not functioning normally.

The government has also not made an estimate of the losses caused by the attack. Carlos Alvarado, who was still president when the attacks began said Costa Rica would not pay the gang any ransom.

IT magazine PCGamer, in an article on Tuesday, described the cyberattack as “a huge privacy breach potentially affecting an entire country, so it’s no surprise this state of emergency has been called.”

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