When cyberattacks happen, most of us only hear reports from the media about what the FBI might be doing or how the company that was attacked is coping with it. We don’t often get a chance to hear from those on the front lines—from the businesses who were affected or from those who helped those businesses get back up and running. Luckily, we had just such an opportunity recently, when Jay Tipton, CEO and Owner of Technology Specialists, appeared as a guest on the Cyber Crime Lab Podcast. Jay was one of the 50 managed service providers (MSPs) who were affected and he and his team worked day and night to clean workstations and servers and get his clients back in business. To better understand what Jay shared, we need to know the facts of the case first.
The Kaseya VSA Ransomware AttackEven those familiar with the basics of technology might not know what Kaseya or VSA mean. Kaseya is a software company headquartered in Dublin that offers a framework for maintaining and managing IT infrastructure. The products it offers, including one called VSA, are used by MSPs around the world. Kaseya VSA is a remote monitoring and management (RMM), endpoint management, and network monitoring solution. Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. In the case of this attack, $70M in BTC was demanded by the attackers. This particular ransomware attack was probably initiated by a gang known as REvil, which injected code into VSA.
What it Was Like on the GroundJay was at a client’s, working on a laptop, and saw a couple of Microsoft products close themselves before he signed off. He thought it might be a standard program bug. But as he headed back to the office, he spoke to one of his team who told him that multiple client calls coming in to say that their computers were down. When he got back to the office, Jay saw ransomware on one of the computers and went straight into Technology Specialists’ network operation center (NOC) and literally started pulling plugs and turning things off until he could figure out what was going on. Over the next few hours, it became clear that all his clients had their data encrypted as part of the attack and he had to fend off angry customers who wanted to hold him accountable. “You go from blaming yourself, to thinking of blaming others, to taking full responsibility, being totally numb, and not being able to do anything,” Jay said. He worked for almost two days straight before collapsing onto one of the company couches. He and his top engineer logged almost 500 hours each in the four weeks that followed. During this time, two things happened that Jay and his customers had no say in:
- Kaseya refused to pay the ransom
- The FBI acquired a decryption key that it refused to share with Kaseya