Hackers known as the Winnti Group were behind ransomware attacks on Taiwan’s two largest fuel suppliers, the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau said on Friday, adding that similar attacks on 10 domestic companies are likely in the next few days.
On May 4, state-run CPC Corp, Taiwan announced that its computer system had been infected with ransomware, causing payment issues at gas stations.
Formosa Petrochemical Corp reported similar issues the following day, and shut down its computer systems.
Powertech Technology Inc, a Hsinchu-based semiconductor firm, also reported a ransomware attack on May 5.
The bureau said that the Winnti Group, which is believed to be from China, likely had access to the firms’ computer systems for months before it carried out the attacks.
Liu Chia-jung (劉家榮), deputy director of the bureau’s Information Security Workstation, said that the hackers gained access to the companies’ Active Directory — a service for managing computers and other devices within a network — and used its task scheduling function to distribute the ransomware throughout each company’s computer network.
When employees’ computers tried to access the network at the start of the work day, a message appeared stating that their files had been encrypted and demanding a ransom of US$3,000 to unlock them, Liu said.
The bureau has asked international authorities investigating six German and Swiss e-mail accounts believed to be connected to the crimes for help, Liu said.
It has also asked US authorities to investigate a US-based company from which the group rented a virtual private server.
The bureau said it had information that the hackers planned to carry out similar attacks on 10 other Taiwanese companies in the next few days, but added that it did not know which are being targeted.
The bureau said that it has advised companies on several steps they could take to improve their digital security.
CPC, which local media reported was suffering computer issues again on Thursday, released a statement on Friday blaming the issue on an operational error, and said that it had strengthened its information security procedures following the May 4 attack.
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