New ransomware threat to businesses on a global scale

An emerging ransomware strain appears to have breached 30 organisations since its “launch” earlier this year by attaching itself to a notorious ransomware syndicate.

In February 2021, "Prometheus" was discovered as a spin-off of another well-known ransomware variant called Thanos, which was previously deployed against state-run organisations in the Middle East and North Africa last year.

Government, financial, manufacturing, logistics, consulting, agriculture, healthcare services, insurance agencies, energy and law firms in America, Britain, and a handful of other countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America, were all hit by this new strain, according to new research published by Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 threat intelligence team.

Prometheus is similar to other ransomware gangs in that it takes advantage of double-extortion tactics and hosts a dark web leak site, where it names and shames new victims and makes stolen data available for purchase, while managing to maintain a sheen of professionalism into its criminal activities.

It runs like a professional enterprise and refers to its victims as 'customers’. It communicates with them using a customer service ticketing system that warns them when payment deadlines are approaching and, somewhat forebodingly, uses a clock to count down the hours, minutes and seconds to a payment deadline.

At the time of writing, only four of those 30 affected organisations opted to pay ransoms, including an agricultural company in Peru, a Brazilian healthcare services provider, and two transportation and logistics organisations in Austria and Singapore.