Hundreds of thousands of technologists have been laid off in the United States alone over the past year—something that’s been noticed, of course, in other countries. In most cases, the companies laying tech workers off are simultaneously posting significant or even record profits, and this has led some frustrated individuals to weaponize ransomware against their former employers.
Consider the attack by a new gang calling themselves DarkBit. At first glance they seem to have hacktivist leanings, describing themselves as against “racism, fascism and apartheid.” But some of their communications hint at the possibility of more personal economic motives: “A kindly advice to the hight-tech companies: From now on, be more careful when you decide to fire your employees, specially the geek ones [sic],” says one tweet.
And DarkBit isn’t the only one getting back at former employers via extortion. One former Ubiquiti worker, Nicholas Sharp, used his administrative credentials to access Ubiquiti’s corporate network to exfiltrate data, then demanded a ransom for its return.
When Ubiquiti refused to pay, Sharp “began reaching out to the press posing as a whistleblower and maligning his employer’s handling of the breach. His false narrative circulated widely, ultimately trimming billions from Ubiquiti’s market capitalisation.”
But tech workers aren’t always turning to the dark side for the money. Some dip their toes into these waters for revenge. Some, because they no longer trust employers. Others turn to cybercrime because they feel employers can’t be trusted to provide stable employment. The recent spate of tech layoffs likely means that there are going to be a lot of skilled individuals available to commit similar crimes, and lately it seems more and more technologists are choosing this path. Buckle up.