Ransomware-hit law firm secures High Court judgment against unknown criminals

You tell 'em, 4 New Square chambers


The London law firm which secured a court injunction forbidding ransomware criminals from publishing data stolen from them has now gone a step further – by securing a default judgment from the High Court.

4 New Square Ltd, a barristers' chambers, raised some amusement in cyber security circles in July when it applied for a High Court injunction in the wake of a ransomware infection. Yesterday the High Court ruled in the firm's favour by default, as the criminals had "not engaged with the proceedings and have not filed an Acknowledgement of Service or Defence."

Judge Mr Justice Nicklin went into five pages of legal detail setting out how the ransomware gang must "by 4pm on 27 September 2021 deliver up to the Claimants' solicitors and/or delete the Information in his possession, custody or control" and by 4 October give "details about whether he has passed any of the Information to a third party and identifying any said third party and their contact details."

Initially, a reader of the judgment might wonder if the power of the High Court of England and Wales compelled the crooks to 'fess up. Sadly, that wasn't the case.

It appears from the judgment [PDF] that all 4 New Square Chambers knows about its attackers is their email address, with legal correspondence being formally served on them through that mailbox.

The firm did not respond to requests for comment from The Register but potential reasons for bringing the case include an insurance payout depending on court action being started, or perhaps the firm hopes that one day the attackers will be identified and might travel through a country that allows enforcement of English judgments.

In practical terms, a non-disclosure injunction is meaningless against criminals who are potentially based in a hostile foreign country, possibly Russia or another ex-Soviet Union nation.

Civil courts in England work on the principle that both sides either agree to take part or can have their bank accounts forcibly emptied if they don't play along. For the second option to work, the person or company needs to be within the court's jurisdiction.

Over recent years Russia has overtly turned a blind eye to ransomware gangs targeting the West from its turf, to the point where US president Joe Biden asked Russian leader Vladimir Putin to crack down on them. With the current state of Russo-Western international relations, however, Russia appeared to have paid lip service at best to Biden's pleas.

Law firms have not featured highly in information dumped online by ransomware gangs, bar a handful of high-profile cases. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Research finds consumer-grade IoT devices showing up... on corporate networks

    Considering the slack security of such kit, it's a perfect storm

    Increasing numbers of "non-business" Internet of Things devices are showing up inside corporate networks, Palo Alto Networks has warned, saying that smart lightbulbs and internet-connected pet feeders may not feature in organisations' threat models.

    According to Greg Day, VP and CSO EMEA of the US-based enterprise networking firm: "When you consider that the security controls in consumer IoT devices are minimal, so as not to increase the price, the lack of visibility coupled with increased remote working could lead to serious cybersecurity incidents."

    The company surveyed 1,900 IT decision-makers across 18 countries including the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, finding that just over three quarters (78 per cent) of them reported an increase in non-business IoT devices connected to their org's networks.

    Continue reading
  • Huawei appears to have quenched its thirst for power in favour of more efficient 5G

    Never mind the performance, man, think of the planet

    MBB Forum 2021 The "G" in 5G stands for Green, if the hours of keynotes at the Mobile Broadband Forum in Dubai are to be believed.

    Run by Huawei, the forum was a mixture of in-person event and talking heads over occasionally grainy video and kicked off with an admission by Ken Hu, rotating chairman of the Shenzhen-based electronics giant, that the adoption of 5G – with its promise of faster speeds, higher bandwidth and lower latency – was still quite low for some applications.

    Despite the dream five years ago, that the tech would link up everything, "we have not connected all things," Hu said.

    Continue reading
  • What is self-learning AI and how does it tackle ransomware?

    Darktrace: Why you need defence that operates at machine speed

    Sponsored There used to be two certainties in life - death and taxes - but thanks to online crooks around the world, there's a third: ransomware. This attack mechanism continues to gain traction because of its phenomenal success. Despite admonishments from governments, victims continue to pay up using low-friction cryptocurrency channels, emboldening criminal groups even further.

    Darktrace, the AI-powered security company that went public this spring, aims to stop the spread of ransomware by preventing its customers from becoming victims at all. To do that, they need a defence mechanism that operates at machine speed, explains its director of threat hunting Max Heinemeyer.

    According to Darktrace's 2021 Ransomware Threat Report [PDF], ransomware attacks are on the rise. It warns that businesses will experience these attacks every 11 seconds in 2021, up from 40 seconds in 2016.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021