The FBI is warning about a fresh extortion tactic: threatening to tank share prices for publicly held companies.
Ransomware gangs are zeroing in on publicly held companies with the threat of financial exposure in an effort to encourage ransom payments, the FBI is warning.
In an alert issued this week [PDF], the Bureau said that activity over the course of the past year shows a trend toward targeting companies when they’re coming up to “significant, time-sensitive financial events,” such as quarterly earnings reports and mandated SEC filings, initial public offerings, M&A activity, and so on. The idea is to ratchet up the extortion thumb-screws by threatening to leak stolen information relevant to these events if the target doesn’t pay up.
“Impending events that could affect a victim’s stock value, such as announcements [or] mergers and acquisitions, encourage ransomware actors to target a network or adjust their timeline for extortion,” the Feds noted.
Doug Britton, CEO at Haystack Solutions, noted that it’s a savvy strategy.
“Criminal organizations are realizing the ability to drive leverage in their extortion demands by targeting companies at critical inflection points in their growth,” he said via email. “This is a strategic play