Fri | Jun 24, 2022

Ransomware gang threatens to overthrow Costa Rica government

Published:Tuesday | May 17, 2022 | 9:47 AM
Presidential candidate Rodrigo Chaves greets supporters as he arrives at a polling station during a presidential runoff election in San Jose, Costa Rica, April 3, 2022. Chaves, who won the election, declared a state of emergency over a ransomware attack as soon as he was sworn in early May 2022. (AP Photo/Carlos Gonzalez, File)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — A ransomware gang that infiltrated some Costa Rican government computer systems has upped its threat, saying its goal is now to overthrow the government.

Perhaps seizing on the fact that President Rodrigo Chaves had only been in office for a week, the Russian-speaking Conti gang tried to increase the pressure to pay a ransom by raising its demand to $20 million.

Chaves suggested Monday in a news conference that the attack was coming from inside as well as outside Costa Rica.

“We are at war and that's not an exaggeration,” Chaves said.

He said officials were battling a national terrorist group that had collaborators inside Costa Rica.

Chaves also said the impact was broader than previously known, with 27 government institutions, including municipalities and state-run utilities, affected.

He blamed his predecessor Carlos Alvarado for not investing in cybersecurity and for not more aggressively dealing with the attacks in the waning days of his government.

In a message Monday, Conti warned that it was working with people inside the government.

“We have our insiders in your government,” the group said.

“We are also working on gaining access to your other systems, you have no other options but to pay us. We know that you have hired a data recovery specialist, don't try to find workarounds.”

Conti attacked Costa Rica in April, accessing multiple critical systems in the Finance Ministry, including customs and tax collection. Other government systems were also affected and a month later not all are fully functioning.

Chaves declared a state of emergency over the attack as soon as he was sworn in last week. The US State Department offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the identification or location of Conti leaders.

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