If you want to extort millions of dollars from a large U.S. company, you can’t do it alone. It takes a village. A village of hackers with advanced computer skills, who hang out on the Dark Web, and most likely live in Russia.
“Ransomware has become a huge business, and as in any business, in order to scale it, they’re coming up with innovative models.” said Dmitri Alperovitch, head of the technology group Silverado Policy Accelerator in Washington.
At Wednesday’s summit in Geneva, President Biden called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to crackdown on cyber crimes. But the Russian leader has shown little interest in combatting an emerging criminal industry in his country that’s called ransomware-as-a-service.
Several major companies, financial institutions and airlines from the U.S. to Australia and Hong Kong suffered brief online outages Thursday due to a third-party IT provider. The outage appeared to affect each company’s website and mobile applications. Internet monitoring websites including ThousandEyes and Downdetector.com showed disruptions across the world.
In Australia, major banks and airlines were hit by the outage, affecting business in the middle of the day.
Akamai Technologies, a Massachusetts-based IT firm that provides content delivery and internet security services to many major companies, said it was aware of an outage on one of its platforms but was resolving the issue.
“Akamai can confirm the segment of our Prolexic platform impacted is up and running and we are continuing to validate services,” spokesperson Chris Nicholson told NPR in an emailed statement. “We will share more details of what transpired, but our first priority is ensuring all customer impact is mitigated.”
It took at least an hour for Australia’s Commonwealth Bank to start to see services return to normal Thursday after its tech issues. The bank tweeted that it was “urgently investigating the outage” of several of its services.
Virgin Australia, an airline, reported problems with its website and Guest Contact Centre. As of Thursday evening local time, the airline said the technical issues had been resolved and its platforms were operating as normal.
The company said an issue with the “Akamai content delivery system” was to blame for the service problems across the world. The airline uses Akamai’s third-party system for IT network authentication.
“We are working with them to ensure that necessary measures are taken to prevent these outages from reoccurring,” the company said in a statement.
Major airlines in the U.S., including Delta, American, Southwest and United, experienced outages at around 1 a.m. ET. Financial institutions, Discover and Navy Federal Credit Union also suffered tech issues.