A ransomware group has reportedly donated thousands of dollars stolen from corporate victims to charities.
The DarkSide group claimed to have made a $10,000 donation in Bitcoins to two charities: The Water Project and Children International. The latter has already said it will not be keeping the money, which by law it has to do as the funds are technically the proceeds of crime.
Ironically, if the ransomware group had kept quiet about the donation then the organizations would likely have been none the wiser. Instead, it wrote a press release on its dark web site crowing that “no matter how bad you think our work is, we are pleased to know that we helped change someone’s life,” according to The Guardian.
The group, which is said also to steal victims’ data in order to force them to pay up, apparently used legitimate US-based digital donation platform The Giving Block to channel the funds to the charities.
Brian Higgins, a Comparitech security specialist, argued that the group may be trying to test out a new method of laundering funds.
“However, it’s more probable that DarkSide clearly has too much time on its hands and too much stolen money knocking about in its Bitcoin wallets,” he added. “If they were really serious about ‘making the world a better place’ they’d all sell their laptops and stay off the internet.”
DarkSide claims not to attack schools, hospitals, governments or charities and to “carefully analyze” target organizations’ accounts to ensure they have enough cash to pay.
However, Javvad Malik, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, questioned its assertion that this is a victimless crime.
“Whenever an organization is extorted via ransomware or other means, that money impacts actual individuals. Many people have lost their jobs over the years and there have been organizations that have ceased to exist,” he argued. “Criminals need to understand that there is a very real impact of their actions, and simply giving an amount to charity cannot make up for that.”