A Closer Look at the LAPSUS$ Data Extortion Group


Microsoft and identity management platform Okta both this week disclosed breaches involving LAPSUS$, a relatively new cybercrime group that specializes in stealing data from big companies and threatening to publish it unless a ransom demand is paid. Here’s a closer look at LAPSUS$, and some of the low-tech but high-impact methods the group uses to gain access to targeted organizations.

First surfacing in December 2021 with an extortion demand on Brazil’s Ministry of Health, LAPSUS$ made headlines more recently for posting screenshots of internal tools tied to a number of major corporations, including NVIDIA, Samsung, and Vodafone.

On Tuesday, LAPSUS$ announced via its Telegram channel it was releasing source code stolen from Microsoft. In a blog post published Mar. 22, Microsoft said it interrupted the LAPSUS$ group’s source code download before it could finish, and that it was able to do so because LAPSUS$ publicly discussed their illicit access on their Telegram channel before the download could complete.

One of the LAPSUS$ group members admitted on their Telegram channel that the Microsoft source code download had been interrupted.

“This public disclosure escalated our action allowing our team to intervene and interrupt the actor mid-operation, limiting broader impact,” Microsoft wrote. “No customer code or data was involved in the observed activities. Our investigation has found a single account had been compromised, granting limited access. Microsoft does not rely on the secrecy of code as a security measure and viewing source code does not lead to elevation of risk.”

While it may be tempting to dismiss LAPSUS$ as an immature and fame-seeking group, their tactics should make anyone in charge of corporate security sit up and take notice. Microsoft says LAPSUS$ — which it boringly calls “DEV-0537” — mostly gains illicit access to targets via “social engineering.” This involves bribing or tricking employees at the target organization or at its myriad partners, such as customer support call centers and help desks.

“Microsoft found instances where the group successfully gained access to target organizations through recruited employees (or employees…

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