Akira attacks Van Buren Public School

Incident Date:

January 9, 2024

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Akira attacks Van Buren Public School


Van Buren Public School




Belleville, USA

Michigan, USA

First Reported

January 9, 2024

Akira Ransomware Group's Attack on Van Buren Public School

Akira ransomware group claimed an attack against Van Buren Public School. Students' and parents' personal data, HR details, and some finance-related details are purportedly leaked on the dark web. The Van Buren Public School (VBPS) is a school district headquartered in Belleville, Michigan.

Akira first emerged in March 2023, and the group may have links to the notorious Conti gang, although this is difficult to ascertain given the Conti code was leaked in 2022. Interestingly, Akira’s extortion platform includes a chat feature for victims to negotiate directly with the attackers, and it has been observed that Akira will inform victims who have paid a ransom of the infection vectors they leveraged to carry out the attack. This is not ransomware “standard procedure”, as many ransomware operators have engaged in multiple attacks on the same victim.

A decrypter was released that may have worked on earlier variants or obscure samples of Akira, but its utility has proven to be null for recovery.‍ Akira maintains a modest but growing attack volume, putting them in about the middle of the pack when compared to other ransomware operators.‍ Ransom demands appear to range between $200,000 to more than $4 million.

Akira's Technical Operations

Akira operates a RaaS written in C++ that is capable of targeting both Windows and Linux systems, typically by exploiting credentials for VPNs. Akira modules will delete Windows Shadow Volume Copies leveraging PowerShell and is designed to encrypt a wide range of file types while avoiding Windows system files with .exe, .lnk, .dll, .msi, and .sys extensions. Akira also abuses legitimate LOLBins/COTS tools like PCHunter64, making detection more difficult.

In July, a Linux variant for Akira was detected in the wild, and the group was also observed remotely exploiting a zero-day in Cisco’s Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) and Firepower Threat Defense (FTD) software (CVE-2023-20269) in brute-force attacks since at least August. Akira has also been observed exploiting VMware ESXi vulnerabilities for lateral movement.

Impact Across Industries

The group has attacked dozens of organizations across multiple industry verticals including education, finance, and manufacturing.‍ Akira operations include data exfiltration for double extortion with the threat to expose or sell the data should the victim fail to come to terms with the attackers and is assessed to have leaked gigabytes of stolen data from victims.

Recent Ransomware Attacks

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