Ransomware attacks target government agencies in Latin America

Several government agencies in Latin America have been the target of ransomware attacks in recent months, and the latest victims are Chile and the Dominican Republic.

Chile’s Interior Ministry reported last week that a government agency had had its systems and online services disrupted by ransomware targeting Windows and VMware ESXi servers. The ransomware encrypted files on compromised systems and renamed them with the .crypt extension.

The target agency seems to be Sernac, the country’s National Consumer Service, which ensures the protection of consumer rights. The organization disclosed the incident on August 25.

The Chilean authorities have made public some Indicators of Compromise (IoC) and based on the information available safety week believe the incident involved the relatively new RedAlert ransomware, also known as N13V.

RedAlert uses double extortion, encrypting victim files and threatening to release data stolen from its systems unless a ransom is paid. RedAlert’s Tor-based leak website does not mention any Chilean government agency at the time of writing.

A government organization in the Dominican Republic was also recently hit with ransomware. The country’s national cybersecurity center said on August 24 that the Dominican Agrarian Institute (IAD) of the Ministry of Agriculture was targeted, but stressed that the government did not plan to pay a ransom, to avoid encouraging the threat actors to conduct such operations.

Bleeping Computer reported that Quantum ransomware was involved in the attack. The cybercriminals claimed to have stolen more than 1TB of files and demanded a ransom of $650,000.

Currently, there is no mention of IAD on Quantum’s data leak website.

Earlier this month, ransomware also hit Argentina’s justice system in Córdoba, forcing the organization to shut down systems and services. Bleeping Computer reported that a new file encryption software named “Play” was involved in the incident.

In May, hackers behind Conti ransomware targeted Costa Rican computer systems and threatened to overthrow the government. Around the same time, cybercriminals also announced that they had hacked into a government organization in Peru. The attacks appeared to be part of an effort to make a grand exit as Operation Conti was shut down soon after, likely due to the brand becoming toxic.

Related: Number of Ransomware Attacks Against Industrial Organizations Drops After Conti Shutdown

Related: Cybercriminals Apparently Involved in Russia-Linked Attack on Montenegro Government

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Edouard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a SecurityWeek Contributing Editor. He worked as a high school computer science teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as a security reporter for Softpedia. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial computing and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied to electrical engineering.

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