On Thursday, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado said that the recent cyberattacks on the government’s systems are attempts to destabilize the country as the new government takes over. The new government is to be headed by the president-elect Rodrigo Chaves.
Officials reported that six public institutions were hit by cyberattacks just this week. According to the local media, apparently the Russian-based cybercrime group Conti revealed they were the ones who attacked. It didn’t end there though. It was a ransomware attack.
Conti demanded Costa Rica pay them $10 million in exchange for releasing the finance ministry’s encrypted or stolen data which they were holding onto until they received the money.
In the face of such a threat, Alvarado said that the cybercriminals are not after the money, rather they have a different intent entirely.
“This attack is not an issue of money but seeks to threaten the stability of the country in a situation of transition. They will not achieve this.”
According to Alvarado, the cyberattack threats are “latent” at best.
Alvarado is preparing to leave the office for his successor. Rodrigo Chaves and his government will be taking over from May 8th.
Alvarado declared: “The Costa Rican state will not pay these cyber criminals anything,” in a message released to the media.
According to Finance Minister Elian Villegas, the hackers got into the Treasury’s customs platforms, as a result, they gained access to the historical taxpayer information which was considered “sensitive”. He didn’t elaborate on to what extent the data was breached in his statement on Wednesday.
Chaves on the other hand did not comment on the incident.
A number of platforms, particularly the tax and customs, were suspended for the fourth consecutive day after the cyberattack. It disrupted the imports and exports of the country, restricting the business. Consequently, the exporters union reported an accumulated loss of amount $200 million on Wednesday.
According to Alvarado the officials were working around the clock to determine the damage, place safety measures for new attacks, and restore services. They intend to take help from international organizations, private companies, and including countries like the United States, Israel, and Spain.
In March, the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned of the cybercrime group Conti and their cyberattacks. Apparently, they are notoriously known for carrying out high-profile attacks by employing the use of ransomware programs to extort millions of dollars from their victims.
Conti has even attacked various critical infrastructure networks. The gang’s based in Saint Petersburg, Russia. They have been capable of leaking documents by copying them through ransomware since 2020. They operate a website where they leak stolen documents.
Earlier this month, a huge leak of internal documents revealed that Conti works much like any other company where they disburse monthly salaries and provide performance-based bonuses to employees. The group consists of reportedly 350 members who have been successful in making more than $2.6 billion in cryptocurrency in just two years.
Whether Alvarado is right about the Russian attempt to destabilize the new government transition in Costa Rica or not, remains to be seen. Perhaps, the cyberattacks might stop once Chaves and his government take over.