Data exfiltration: The art of distancing - Help Net Security

Data exfiltration: The art of distancing - Help Net Security

We have all seen the carefully prepared statement. A cyber incident has occurred, we are investigating but please do not worry since no data has left our network. Perhaps we will also see the obligatory inclusion of a ‘sophisticated’ threat actor by way of explanation as to how the company protecting our data was able to be compromised.



This assertion is necessary since it can be critical in the light of regulatory fines, and for some time was a claim that was often used in public admittance of ransomware incidents.


Not any more.


Since late 2019, an evolving tactic to publicly demonstrate that not only were criminals inside a company’s network, but their unfettered access allowed them the opportunity to leave with data (which is regulated) began to emerge: the threat to leak sensitive content if ransom wasn’t paid. Indeed, such was the ferocity of the claims by victims, that the tactic was perceived as a way to extort more money.


This sadly of course has proven to be very successful and has led to multiple ransomware groups building similar capabilities and leak sites. According to Coveware for example, “nearly 9% of all cases it worked on involved ransomware attackers stealing and threatening to leak data.”


This represents a significant problem with the defence that data was not accessed.


Indeed, the very concept of a ransomware attack, or even any other type of cyber incident, needs to be considered not in isolation but potentially as part of a wider campaign. For example, a recent investigation into the use of Hermes ransomware drew the conclusion that it was a vehicle to m ..