Website extortionists rake in over $100,000 without lifting a finger

'Armada Collective' threatens to carry out DDoS attacks, never actually attacks


Reputation is everything in business: it appears a bunch of canny scammers have stolen the identity of a hacking squad to make some serious bank.

Back in November, a group calling itself the Armada Collective carried out a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on webmail providers who refused to pay them a protection fee in Bitcoins. Some alleged members of the group were arrested in January, but now reports are coming in that someone is purely using their reputation for criminal gain.

CloudFlare says more than 100 companies have received emails from a group calling itself the Armada Collective demanding between 10 and 50 Bitcoins in exchange for not being attacked, and warning that the price will rise if they don't pony up the funds. We're told no websites were actually flood offline by the collective – because everyone paid up, just in case.

"Our attacks are extremely powerful – sometimes over 1Tbps per second. And we pass CloudFlare and others' remote protections! So, no cheap protection will help," the email warns.

Some sleuthing showed that the extortionists are reusing the same Bitcoin wallet for all emails, making it tricky for the crims to check exactly who has paid and who hasn't. This prompted CloudFlare to do some digging.

"Our conclusion was a bit of a surprise: we've been unable to find a single incident where the current incarnation of the Armada Collective has actually launched a DDoS attack," said Matthew Prince, CEO of CloudFlare.

"In fact, because the extortion emails reuse Bitcoin addresses, there's no way the Armada Collective can tell who has paid and who has not. In spite of that, the cybercrooks have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in extortion payments."

Prince said that he had checked with other DDoS mitigation businesses and none of them have seen any attacks against companies that have received the collective's demands.

"While the actual members of the original Armada Collective appear locked up in a European jail, with little more than some Bitcoin addresses and an email account, some enterprising individuals are drafting off the group's original name, sowing fear, and collecting hundreds of thousands of extorted dollars," he said.

There are groups out there performing actual attacks if they don't get a ransom, he said, but this isn't one of them. So if you get an email from the Armada Collective, there's no reason to pay up. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Cloudflare says it thwarted record-breaking HTTPS DDoS flood
    26m requests a second? Not legit traffic, not even Bill Gates doing $1m giveaways could manage that

    Cloudflare said it this month staved off another record-breaking HTTPS-based distributed denial-of-service attack, this one significantly larger than the previous largest DDoS attack that occurred only two months ago.

    In April, the biz said it mitigated an HTTPS DDoS attack that reached a peak of 15.3 million requests-per-second (rps). The flood last week hit a peak of 26 million rps, with the target being the website of a company using Cloudflare's free plan, according to Omer Yoachimik, product manager at Cloudflare.

    Like the attack in April, the most recent one not only was unusual because of its size, but also because it involved using junk HTTPS requests to overwhelm a website, preventing it from servicing legit visitors and thus effectively falling off the 'net.

    Continue reading
  • Man gets two years in prison for selling 200,000 DDoS hits
    Over 2,000 customers with malice on their minds

    A 33-year-old Illinois man has been sentenced to two years in prison for running websites that paying customers used to launch more than 200,000 distributed denial-of-services (DDoS) attacks.

    A US California Central District jury found the Prairie State's Matthew Gatrel guilty of one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, unauthorized impairment of a protected computer and conspiracy to commit unauthorized impairment of a protected computer. He was initially charged in 2018 after the Feds shut down 15 websites offering DDoS for hire.

    Gatrel, was convicted of owning and operating two websites – DownThem.org and AmpNode.com – that sold DDoS attacks. The FBI said that DownThem sold subscriptions that allowed the more than 2,000 customers to run the attacks while AmpNode provided customers with the server hosting. AmpNode spoofed servers that could be pre-configured with DDoS attack scripts and attack amplifiers to launch simultaneous attacks on victims.

    Continue reading
  • Google, EFF back Cloudflare in row over pirate streams
    Ban akin to 'ordering a telephone company to prevent a person from having conversations' over its lines

    Google, EFF, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) have filed court documents supporting Cloudflare after it was sued for refusing to block a streaming site.

    Earlier this year, a handful of Israel-based media companies took Israel.tv to court, accusing it of streaming TV and movie content it had no right to distribute. The corporations — United King Film Distribution, D.B.S. Satellite Services, HOT Communication Systems, Charlton, Reshet Media and Keshet Broadcasting — won the lawsuit after Israel.tv's creators failed to show up to their hearings, and the judge ordered Israel-tv.com, Israel.tv and Sdarot.tv each pay $7,650,000 in damages. 

    In a more surprising move, however, the media outfits also won an injunction [PDF] in the United States in April against a slew of internet companies, among others, banning them from aiding Israel.tv in its piracy.

    Continue reading
  • Let's play everyone's favorite game: REvil? Or Not REvil?
    Another day, another DDoS attack that tries to scare the victim into paying up with mention of dreaded gang

    Akamai has spoken of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) assault against one of its customers during which the attackers astonishingly claimed to be associated with REvil, the notorious ransomware-as-a-service gang.

    REvil was behind the JBS and Kaseya malware infections last year. In January, Russia reportedly dismantled REvil's networks and arrested 14 of its alleged members, theoretically putting an end to the criminal operation. 

    Beginning in late April, however, the same group of miscreants — or some copycats  — appeared to resume their regularly scheduled ransomware activities with a new website for leaking data stolen from victims, and fresh malicious code.

    Continue reading
  • Verizon: Ransomware sees biggest jump in five years
    We're only here for DBIRs

    The cybersecurity landscape continues to expand and evolve rapidly, fueled in large part by the cat-and-mouse game between miscreants trying to get into corporate IT environments and those hired by enterprises and security vendors to keep them out.

    Despite all that, Verizon's annual security breach report is again showing that there are constants in the field, including that ransomware continues to be a fast-growing threat and that the "human element" still plays a central role in most security breaches, whether it's through social engineering, bad decisions, or similar.

    According to the US carrier's 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) released this week [PDF], ransomware accounted for 25 percent of the observed security incidents that occurred between November 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021, and was present in 70 percent of all malware infections. Ransomware outbreaks increased 13 percent year-over-year, a larger increase than the previous five years combined.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech shrank the internet while growing its own power
    Classic internet ideas matter less now that CDNs and private networks dominate traffic

    Comment The internet has become smaller, the result of a rethinking of when and where to use the 'net's intended architecture. In the process it may also have further concentrated power in the hands of giant technology companies.

    Given the ever-expanding content and resources available online, and proliferation of connected devices, the notion that the internet has shrunk is counter-intuitive. But shrunk it has – to the point at which some iPhones do not immediately connect to the open internet.

    Those phones are iPhones running the latest version of Apple's iOS and the opt-in service called Private Relay. The iGiant bills Private Relay as a privacy enhancement because it obscures users' DNS lookups and IP addresses by funneling traffic over networks operated by Cloudflare, according to specs set by Apple.

    Continue reading
  • Shopping for malware: $260 gets you a password stealer. $90 for a crypto-miner...
    We take a look at low, low subscription prices – not that we want to give anyone any ideas

    A Tor-hidden website dubbed the Eternity Project is offering a toolkit of malware, including ransomware, worms, and – coming soon – distributed denial-of-service programs, at low prices.

    According to researchers at cyber-intelligence outfit Cyble, the Eternity site's operators also have a channel on Telegram, where they provide videos detailing features and functions of the Windows malware. Once bought, it's up to the buyer how victims' computers are infected; we'll leave that to your imagination.

    The Telegram channel has about 500 subscribers, Team Cyble documented this week. Once someone decides to purchase of one or more of Eternity's malware components, they have the option to customize the final binary executable for whatever crimes they want to commit.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022