In 2021, Bitdefender was accused of self-promotion when releasing and publicly announcing a decryptor to the detriment of actual victims with regards to DarkSide, a hacking group. In 2020, DarkSide switched their main encryption ransomware product over to an "affiliate" model wherein other attackers could download and use their software in exchange for a portion of the profits. However, they introduced a bug in the process where affiliate hackers would all use the same private RSA key - meaning that a decryption package for a single target who paid the ransom would work on any target that had the ransomware installed. Security researchers noticed and were quietly already helping victims of the software, but with no public notice, making it so that the attackers would only see an inexplicable decrease in ransom payments that could be written off as chance. At about the same time, Bitdefender researchers developed a decryptor and issued a blog post in January 2021 describing the flaw and offering the decryptor as a free download, in order to make as many organizations as possible aware of its existence to reduce the impact of Darkside ransomware attacks. This was criticized in an article in the MIT Technology Review: claiming, first, Bitdefender's program wasn't even safe - it was flawed and would "damage" files decrypted with it due to bugs within it. Second, the blog post tipped off DarkSide as to the nature of the flaw; DarkSide promptly patched the bug and sarcastically thanked Bitdefender for pointing it out, then went on with their campaign of extortion. A notable incident that took place after Bitdefender's public disclosure was the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack in May 2021. While the security researchers who had been using the flaw before acknowledge that it's probable DarkSide would eventually have noticed and fixed the issue, they still criticized Bitdefender for using the bug merely for a brief burst of publicity, rather than in the way that would most help victims of the scheme. Bitdefender has defended their actions on their blog. The article and blog post triggered a discussion among cybersecurity professionals about the pros and cons of publicly disclosing decryptors.
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