SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Nearly a week into a ransomware attack that has crippled Costa Rican government computer systems, the country refused to pay a ransom as it struggled to implement workarounds and braced itself as hackers began publishing stolen information.
The Russian-speaking Conti gang claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Costa Rican government had not confirmed its origin.
The Finance Ministry was the first to report problems Monday. Attacks on the social security agency’s human resources system and on the Labor Ministry, as well as others followed.
The initial attack forced the Finance Ministry to shut down for several hours the system responsible for the payment of a good part of the country’s public employees, which also handles government pension payments. It also has had to grant extensions for tax payments.
Conti had not published a specific ransom amount, but Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado said, “The Costa Rican state will not pay anything to these cybercriminals.” A figure of $10 million circulated on social media platforms, but did not appear on Conti’s site.
Costa Rican businesses fretted over confidential information provided to the government that could be published and used against them, while average citizens worried that personal financial information could be used to clean out their bank accounts.
Christian Rucavado, executive director of Costa Rica’s Exporters Chamber, said the attack on the customs agency had collapsed the country’s import and export logistics. He described a race against the clock for perishable items waiting in cold storage and said they still didn’t have an estimate for the economic losses. Trade was still moving, but much more slowly.
“Some borders have delays because they’re doing the process manually,” Rucavado said. “We have asked the government for various actions like expanding hours so they can attend to exports and imports.”
He said normally Costa Rica exports a daily average of $38 million in products.
Allan Liska, an intelligence analyst with security firm Recorded Future, said that Conti was pursuing a double extortion: encrypting government files to freeze agencies’ ability to function and posting stolen files…