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Acer hit with R7 billion ransomware demand

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Electronics manufacturer Acer has been hit by a REvil ransomware attack and has until Sunday to pay R7 billion ($50 million). Failure to pay will see the ransom demand double to R14 billion ($100 million).

The manufacturer of laptops, desktops and servers confirmed the attack following a report by Bleeping Computer, which says the multimillion-dollar demand is the largest known ransom to date.

Acer, which has a huge presence in SA, confirmed the incidence in a statement, saying: "Acer routinely monitors its IT systems, and most cyber attacks are well-defended. Companies like us are constantly under attack, and we have reported recent abnormal situations observed to the relevant law enforcement and data protection authorities in multiple countries.

"We have been continuously enhancing our cyber security infrastructure to protect business continuity and our information integrity. We urge all companies and organisations to adhere to cyber security disciplines and best practices, and be vigilant to any network activity abnormalities."

Acer is among the most popular brands in SA when it comes to laptops. The list also includes Dell, HP, Asus and Lenovo.

The attack by REvil hackers is the latest onslaught on high-profile targets since last year, when the group leaked highly-sensitive personal details of musician Lady Gaga, and then US president Donald Trump.

According to Bleeping Computer, the group is well-known for turning extortion into a lucrative business opportunity and made more than $100 million in 2020. This year, reportedly, the group plans to raise the amount to $2 billion.

The publication says REvil announced the Acer breach on its Web site, where it presented images of allegedly stolen files, including financial spreadsheets, bank balances and bank communications, as proof. The group offered Acer a 20% discount if the money was transferred before 17 March.

The attack on Acer comes as global ransomware attacks are on the rise.

The Sophos 2021 Threat Report finds that in just the past quarter, the average ransom payout has risen by 21%, with the average now the equivalent of $233 817, payable in crypto-currency. A year earlier, the average payout was $84 116.

It says not only are attackers accelerating the pace of their attacks and becoming more innovative in the modus operandi, they are also starting to engage in data theft so they may sell the data or threaten targets with extortion over the release of sensitive private data.

SA has not been spared, as cyber criminals continue hunting for more victims globally.

In July 2019, City Power, the City of Johannesburg’s electricity utility, was hit by a ransomware attack that encrypted databases, applications and its network. The City of Johannesburg also fell victim after the attack on the power utility, with hackers demanding the payment of 4.0 Bitcoins.

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