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Monday, 03 August 2020 05:51

Criminals use Windows Maze ransomware to attack Indian highways authority

Criminals use Windows Maze ransomware to attack Indian highways authority Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Cyber criminals have used the Maze ransomware that can be used to attack Windows systems to hit the infrastructure of the Indian public sector body, National Highways Authority of India, and released data that they have stolen prior to encrypting it on-site.

The NHAI was set up in 1988 through an act of Parliament and is mandated to provide an organisation that would develop, maintain and manage national highways in India.

Though the roads under its purview constitute only 2% of the total in the country, they are the arterial roads for inter-state movement of passengers and goods and carry about 40% of traffic.

The national highways make up a total of about 132,499 kms of roads.

The release of the data by the Maze attackers indicates that the NHAI has not responded to the ransom note that is normally generated on a system which is hit. The attack was first made public on 2 July.


A screenshot of the data released on the Maze website on the dark web.

The notice gives the victims a contact email and also lists the amount that is being demanded to decrypt the data and also destroy what was stolen.

Maze is used widely by a variety of attack groups and was used to attack the global technology firm Pitney Bowes.

Other attacks of note have been on the Texas foundry group X-FAB, a Thailand power authority, the Belgian accounting firm HLB, the global defence group ST Engineering, the Sydney strata management company Strata Plus, well-known Indian sweets manufacturer Halidram's, and technology consulting company Cognizant.

Maze first exfiltrates data from a victim and then encrypts the data on-site. The ransom note is then generated on infected systems.

If the victim pays up, a decryption key is sent, the stolen data is deleted and the matter ends there. Most victims choose not to pay, and in such cases, the attackers then release a little of the data that has been exfiltrated.

More and more data is progressively released. Finally, if the victim shows no interest in paying, the data is also dumped on cybercrime forums on the dark web for use by anyone and for any purpose.

The NHAI cannot be contacted because it provides no email address on its site for this, or any other, purpose.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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