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Josh Lefkowitz
Chief Executive Officer
Josh Lefkowitz executes the company’s strategic vision to empower organizations with the fastest, most comprehensive coverage of threatening activity on the internet. He has worked extensively with authorities to track and analyze terrorist groups. Mr. Lefkowitz also served as a consultant to the FBI’s senior management team and worked for a top tier, global investment bank. Mr. Lefkowitz holds an MBA from Harvard University and a BA from Williams College.
Evan Kohlmann
Chief Innovation Officer
Evan Kohlmann focuses on product innovation at Flashpoint where he leverages fifteen years’ experience tracking Al-Qaida, ISIS, and other terrorist groups. He has consulted for the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Justice, the Australian Federal Police, and Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, among others. Mr. Kohlmann holds a JD from the Univ. of Pennsylvania Law School and a BSFS in International Politics from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown Univ.
Josh Devon
Chief Operating Officer / Chief Product Officer
Josh Devon focuses on product vision and strategy at Flashpoint while ensuring the company’s departments function synergistically during its rapid growth. He also works to ensure that customers receive best in class products, services, and support. Previously, Mr. Devon co-founded the SITE Intelligence Group where he served as Assistant Director. He holds an MA from SAIS at Johns Hopkins Univ. At the Univ. of Pennsylvania, he received a BS in Economics from the Wharton School and a BA in English from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Chris Camacho
Chief Revenue Officer
As Chief Revenue Officer, Chris Camacho leads the company’s global sales team, which includes solution architecture, business development, strategic integrations, partnerships, and revenue operations; he is also the architect of Flashpoint’s FPCollab sharing community. With over 15 years of cybersecurity leadership experience, he has spearheaded initiatives across Operational Strategy, Incident Response, Threat Management, and Security Operations to ensure cyber risk postures align with business goals. Most recently as a Senior Vice President of Information Security at Bank of America, Mr. Camacho was responsible for overseeing the Threat Management Program. An entrepreneur, Mr. Camacho also serves as CEO for NinjaJobs: a career-matching community for elite cybersecurity talent. He has a BS in Decision Sciences & Management of Information Systems from George Mason University.
Lisa Iadanza
Chief People Officer
Lisa M. Iadanza leads all functional areas of People Operations at Flashpoint, including human resources, talent acquisition & management, employee engagement, and developing high performance teams. In addition to collaborating with the executive team to drive strategic growth, she plays an integral role in fostering Flashpoint’s culture and mission. Driven by her passions for mentorship, employee advocacy, and talent development, Ms. Iadanza has more than twenty years of experience in building, scaling, and leading human resources functions. Prior to Flashpoint, she held leadership roles at Conde Nast, Terra Technology, and FreeWheel. She is a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and holds a bachelor’s degree in management with concentrations in human resources and marketing from State University of New York at Binghamton.
Donald Saelinger
President
Donald Saelinger is responsible for driving strategic and operational initiatives to accelerate Flashpoint’s growth and scale. In this role, Donald leads a broad portfolio including Marketing, Customer Success, Revenue Operations, Legal and related functions, and is focused on helping the company execute on a go-to-market approach that maximizes value to our customers. Prior to Flashpoint, Donald served as Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of Endgame, Inc., an endpoint detection and response company acquired by Elastic N.V. in 2019, and where he led a range of teams focused on growth, scale, and legal and compliance matters. Donald also previously served as the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Opower, Inc. (NYSE: OPWR), a global provider of SaaS solutions to electric and gas utilities that was acquired by Oracle, Inc. in 2016. Donald graduated from Columbia University in 2000 and received his JD from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2006.
Rob Reznick
SVP Finance and Corporate Development
Rob Reznick leads the finance, accounting, and corporate development teams at Flashpoint. Rob previously served as Director of Finance & Accounting for 1010data (acquired by Advance/Newhouse), and Director of Finance for Financial Guard (acquired by Legg Mason) after prior work in forensic accounting and dispute consulting. Mr. Reznick is a Certified Public Accountant and holds an MBA and MAcc from the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, and a BBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Tom Hofmann
SVP Intelligence
Tom Hofmann leads the intelligence directorate that is responsible for the collection, analysis, production, and dissemination of Deep and Dark Web data. He works closely with clients to prioritize their intelligence requirements and ensures internal Flashpoint operations are aligned to those needs. Mr. Hofmann has been at the forefront of cyber intelligence operations in the commercial, government, and military sectors, and is renowned for his ability to drive effective intelligence operations to support offensive and defensive network operations.
Jake Wells
SVP Solutions Architecture
Jake Wells leads strategic integrations and information sharing as part of the client engagement & development team, which serves as an internal advocate for our government and commercial clients to ensure Flashpoint’s intelligence solutions meet their evolving needs. He leverages a decade of experience running cyber and counterterrorism investigations, most recently with the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, to maximize the value customers generate from our products and services. Mr. Wells holds an MA from Columbia University and a BA from Emory University.
Brian Brown
SVP Strategy and Business Development
Brian Brown is responsible for the overall direction of strategic sales and development supporting Flashpoint’s largest clients. In his role, Mr. Brown focuses on designing and executing growth-oriented sales penetration strategies across multiple vertical markets, including both Government and Commercial, supporting Flashpoint’s Sales and Business Development Teams. An experienced entrepreneur, Mr. Brown also serves as CSO for NinjaJobs, a private community created to match elite cybersecurity talent with top tier global jobs and also advise growth-stage cybersecurity companies.
Justin Rogers
VP Revenue Operations
Justin Rogers leads the Revenue Operations team at Flashpoint, aligning sales, marketing, partnerships, customer success, and finance across vision, planning, process, and goals. He leverages over 15 years of experience in security, strategy, product design, and implementation to drive growth, provide an end-to-end view of the customer journey, and a seamless customer experience. Recently, Justin led Marketing for Centripetal, bringing the first Threat Intelligence Gateway to market. Previously, he managed operations of a Counter IED lab electronics forensics division while forward deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Justin holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire.
Peter Partyka
VP Engineering
Peter Partyka leads Flashpoint’s engineering teams. Peter previously worked in the quantitative hedge fund space in New York City, implementing security and administrative solutions around proprietary trading platforms, high-availability cloud deployments, and hardening of applications and infrastructure. Peter leverages more than 16 years of experience in technology specializing in application security, red-teaming, penetration testing, exploit development, as well as blue-teaming. Peter has a long track record of managing tech teams and implementing engineering security best practices. Recently Peter led Flashpoint toward GDPR and CCPA compliance and has been a key architect of Flashpoint’s robust compliance programs. Peter has taught advanced cybersecurity courses at New York University and consulted at various tech startups during his career.
Paul Farley
VP APAC Sales
Paul Farley is responsible for the Asia-Pacific region of Flashpoint's international business, including Australia, Japan, and Singapore. In his role at Flashpoint, Paul is executing growth-oriented sales strategies across multiple countries and vertical markets, including both Government and Commercial. Paul has extensive experience leading regional sales for both pre-IPO growth businesses and large organizations such as RSA, EMC and DELL.
Steven Cooperman
VP Public Sector Sales
Steven Cooperman is responsible for Flashpoint’s strategy and sales growth of its public sector business. He also supports the development of a robust partner ecosystem for public sector business to deliver value added offerings and innovation focused to the mission of government. Steven has an established and diverse career in the Public Sector, holding leadership positions at a number of successful enterprise software companies and Federal System Integrators, including ServiceNow, HP, Oracle and Northrop Grumman. He holds an MA in Analytic Geography from the State University of New York - Binghamton, and received his BS in Geology from the State University - Oneonta.
Matthew Howell
VP Product
Matthew Howell leads the Product Management and Product Marketing teams for Flashpoint. He is responsible for developing a strong team that drives product adoption and user engagement through outcome based prioritization, continuous process improvement, and metrics driven development. Matthew brings a passion for diverse ideas, experience launching B2B SaaS products, building integration ecosystems, supporting five 9s SLAs, and leading distributed teams. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Virginia
Glenn Lemons
Executive Director Strategic Accounts Engagement
Glenn Lemons is Executive Director, Strategic Accounts Engagement at Flashpoint. He previously served as the acting Director of Citigroup's Cyber Intelligence Center where he was responsible for analyzing and reacting to intelligence from a variety of threats. These threats ranged from fraudulent activity and attempting to defraud Citi's clients to supporting security operations for the firm's worldwide network presence. He has extensive experience working with multiple clients across the financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, and public sectors. Glenn also has more than 26 years of intelligence experience within the operational and support communities in the U.S. military and federal civilian service; seven of which focused on both defensive and offensive cyber operations. While working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, he testified numerous times before U.S. Congressional committees and member requested open and closed sessions.
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Steve Leightell
Steve started his career in Internet sales in the early 1990s and was always a top sales rep before transitioning to business development. By the early 2000s, he was the Director of Business Development at DWL, where he managed a team that built partnerships with Accenture, Oracle, Tata Consulting, Wipro, Cognizant and IBM. Steve designed the channel and strategy that ultimately culminated in the acquisition of DWL by IBM in 2005. He went on to lead a global team within IBM that was responsible for major system integrator partnerships. In 2008, he left IBM to found a niche consulting firm focused on business development for SaaS organizations. Steve holds a BA in anthropology and sociology from Carleton University in Ottawa.
Ellie Wheeler
Ellie Wheeler is a Partner at Greycroft and is based in the firm’s New York office. Prior to joining Greycroft, Ellie worked in a similar role evaluating investment opportunities at Lowercase Capital. Ellie also worked at Cisco in Corporate Development doing acquisitions, investments, and strategy within the unified communications, enterprise software, mobile, and video sectors. While at Cisco, she was involved in multiple acquisitions and investments, including PostPath, Jabber, Xobni, and Tandberg. She began her career in growth capital private equity at Summit Partners in Boston. Ellie graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with a BA in Psychology and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Glenn McGonnigle
Glenn McGonnigle is a General Partner at TechOperators. Prior to launching TechOperators in 2008, Glenn was CEO of VistaScape Security Systems, a venture-backed provider of enterprise intelligent video surveillance software. He lead the company through its successful sale to Siemens Building Technologies. Previously, Glenn was a co-founder and senior executive of Atlanta-based Internet Security Systems (ISS) where he helped raise initial venture capital and launch the business. For 7 years, he led the business development team in developing sales channels and entering the managed security services market. During his tenure, the company grew from startup to revenues of over $225 million and was later acquired by IBM for $1.3 billion.
Brendan Hannigan
Brendan joined Polaris Partners in 2016 as an entrepreneur partner. In this role, he focuses on funding and founding companies in the technology sector with a concentration in cloud, analytics, and cybersecurity. Brendan is a co-founder of Sonrai Security and chairman of Twistlock, both Polaris investments. He also currently serves on the board of Bitsight Technologies and Flashpoint. A 25 year technology industry veteran, Brendan was most recently the general manager of IBM Security. Under Brendan’s leadership, IBM Security grew significantly faster than the overall security market to become the number one enterprise security provider in the world with almost $2B of annual revenue.
Matt Devost
Currently, Devost serves as CEO & Co-Founder of OODA LLC as well as a review board member for Black Hat. In 2010, he co-founded the cybersecurity consultancy FusionX LLC which was acquired by Accenture in August 2015, where he went on to lead Accenture's Global Cyber Defense practice. Devost also founded the Terrorism Research Center in 1996 where he served as President and CEO until November 2008 and held founding or leadership roles at iDefense, iSIGHT Partners, Total Intel, SDI, Tulco Holdings, and Technical Defense.

From Ransomware to DDoS: Guide to Cyber Threat Actors—How, Why, and Who They Choose to Attack

Blog
November 1, 2021

What Do Cyber Threat Actors Want? Money, Mostly.

Threat actors who execute cyberattacks, such as ransomware, can wreak havoc on organizations across the private and public sectors. These cyberattacks put their reputation, assets, stakeholders, and customers at stake. Two seminal yearly studies say it all:

In this article we focus specifically on the behaviors of cyber threat actors, whose interactions occur primarily online and are commonly motivated by financial gain.

Key takeaways

The behaviors of cyber threat actors are ever-changing. Their targets, methods, and even their motivations (which are usually, but not always, financially motivated) evolve with every passing minute. 

Security and fraud teams at government and law enforcement agencies, as well as enterprises, must possess the kinds of finished, actionable intelligence that will help them proactively engage in meaningful cyber threat hunting and ultimately prevent attacks which could result in the disclosure of data to an unauthorized party.

This begins with a deep understanding of the threat actor landscape. In this article we:

  • Define threat actors, including the overlap between a threat actor and a cyber threat actor
  • Describe common threat actor motivations—financial and ideological.
  • Detail the illicit communities where threat actors commonly operate.
  • Outline common methods of attack, including phishing, malware, and ransomware, and desired intent of each (tip: it’s not always malicious).

What is a cyber threat actor?

Cyber threat actors, or simply threat actors, are groups of individuals who locate and attack technological vulnerabilities—via information systems, networks, domains, devices, and other potentially breachable windows—and then leverage stolen data to accomplish a variety of goals, most commonly for financial gain. 

Cyber threat actors use a variety of tactics to see their aims through. This includes ransomware attacks, phishing scams, credential stuffing, and DDoS attacks, all of which we describe below. 

A group of threat actors is commonly referred to as a “collective.”

Threat actor Vs. Cyber threat actor

“Threat actor” is an all encompassing term for individuals, or groups of individuals, who are motivated by a cause and take illicit (and often illegal) actions to realize them.

Threat actors are typically split into two categories: those whose methods manifest physically (physical security) and those which manifest as cyberattacks (cybersecurity). Notably, threat actors who intend physical harm, such as violent non-state actors (VSNA), may communicate digitally (via the Telegram messaging app, for example), and therefore possess a certain cyber element to their methods.

Where cyber threat actors operate

Threat actors operate in a number of illicit communities, depending on their objectives. 

For example, a number of established forums are dedicated to credit card fraud, one of the earliest forms of cybercrime. This includes forums that discuss carding—from stealing both online and in-store card data, to monetizing it. Additionally, there are a number of cybercrime shops that facilitate the sale of compromised card credentials. 

While most cyber threat activity is associated with the “deep and dark web,” chat applications like Telegram and Discord, messaging boards like 4chan, and conventional social media are also common sources of fraudulent activity. 

Additionally, threat actors commonly operate on established forums and communities with rooms dedicated to cybercrime subcategories malware, social engineering, and access providing. Flashpoint analysts have also seen cybercriminals establish their own new communities tailored to illicit interests like ransomware, after traditional forums prohibited such activities. 

Types of threat actors and their motivations

It isn’t always easy to isolate a threat actor and figure out their individual motivations. Multiple threat actors can join a single group and unite behind a cause, only to splinter when their interests diverge. Further complicating this picture is the fact that a threat actor or group can have multiple motivations.

For example, a ransomware collective can be financially motivated and extort ransoms from organizations, but only target entities in certain countries  based on political or social motivations. While most threat actors are motivated by money, they may also exhibit other motivations, such as causing chaos.

Financially-motivated threat actors

Profit is one of the most frequent motivations of cybercriminals at any level of sophistication. Financially-motivated threat actors are opportunistic and target low-hanging; these threat actors are not concerned with the discoverability of their attacks because they’re only interested in stealing assets that they can convert into money as quickly as possible. 

Cybercriminals

“Cybercriminal” is a blanket term used to describe an individual who conducts illegal activities online.

Cybercriminals are also often referred to as “threat actors” or “cyber threat actors.” As every country has different laws governing online activity, the label “cybercriminal” is subjective. 

Organized crime: Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of cyber attack that renders a victim’s files inaccessible by encrypting them and demanding a monetary ransom for the decryption key. 

Recently, the term “ransomware actors” has also come to be associated with groups participating in data extortion, or the practice of exfiltrating and threatening to publish or sell sensitive corporate or personal documents in addition to, or instead of, encrypting them. 

Ransomware actors can operate individually or in specialized groups under the Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) model, where multiple threat actors specialize in various aspects of an attack (initial access, encryption, negotiation, etc.) each carry out a separate part of the attack and split the ransom amongst themselves.  

Since the May 2021 ban of ransomware activity on forums, operators began advertising on the closed-membership forum RAMP. Analysts have also observed advertisements on encrypted messengers like Jabber.

Insider threats

Insider threats, or insider cyber threats, can be done intentionally—or not—and make up about 30% of all data breaches.

Intentional insider threats involve actions taken to harm an organization for personal benefit or to act on a personal grievance. The intentional insider is often synonymously referenced as a “malicious insider.”

However, not all insider threats are intentional. A threat actor that is incompetent or negligent puts an organization at risk through carelessness. Negligent insiders are generally familiar with security policies and IT best practices but choose to ignore them, thereby creating risk for the organization. 

Out of convenience or incompetence, these unintentional insider threats actively try to bypass security controls. Against security policies, they leave vulnerable data and resources unsecured, giving attackers easy access. Organizations can take proactive steps to mitigate employee mistakes and follow best practices to protect themselves from insider threats.

Carders

A carder is an individual who is involved in credit card theft and subsequent fraudulent activities associated with the stolen credit cards. Generally, carding doesn’t require as much technical knowledge as other cybercrime activities, and it is often seen as the stepping stone for many cybercriminals.

Scammers

Scammers are typically involved with various types of fraud. This may include tactics to steal personally identifiable information, or payment card details. Other scams may include perpetrating synthetic identity fraud to borrow lines of credit, or more recently observed COVID-19 scams, like CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Small Business Association (SBA) loan fraud. 

Ideologically motivated threat actors

FUD: Fear, uncertainty, and doubt

FUD-motivated threat actors, motivated by certain political ideologies, disseminate false or misleading information in a targeted manner. They also seek to influence public perception of their capabilities or goals, thereby confusing law enforcement or other adversaries. 

Examples include a ransomware collective sharing a message to call rivals to arms against the United States, in order to achieve media exposure, or a threat actor sharing publicly available voter information on an illicit forum in order to create the semblance of election meddling.  

Government/state-sponsored and APT groups

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups are threat actors or collectives that are typically supported by a nation state either directly (e.g. units of an intelligence agency) or indirectly (e.g. a syndicate supported by the state through shell companies or similar entities)—and who are thus capable of using advanced capabilities in a sustained manner to attack large entities to achieve specific goals. 

APTs are usually politically or economically motivated, often use spear phishing or social engineering as initial attack vectors, and apart from doing harm to a target by disrupting operations or stealing funds, will often also have espionage capabilities. Their targets include state institutions, critical infrastructure and large companies possessing key assets. APTs are typically referred to with a number and various researchers and vendors may attach other aliases to them. 

Recent examples include the SolarWinds cyberattack (also a supply chain attack) and ransomware-driven cryptocurrency schemes being run out of North Korea.

Hacktivists, Hacktivism

Hacktivists are individuals, or groups such as the decentralized group Anonymous, that act as socially or politically active threat actors. They pose a medium-level threat of carrying out an isolated but damaging attack. Most hacktivist groups attempt to draw public attention to what they believe is an important issue or cause using propaganda, rather than by causing damage to critical infrastructures. 

Their goal is to support their own political or social agenda. Their sub-goals are propaganda and causing reputational damage—such as the recent BlueLeaks hack or Epik leak—to achieve notoriety for their cause to inspire social or political change. 

Insider threats

Insider threats that are intentional involve actions taken to harm an organization for personal benefit or to act on a personal grievance. The intentional insider is often synonymously referenced as a “malicious insider” or “malicious actor.” Their motivation is personal gain or harming an organization.

However, not all insider threats are intentional. A threat actor that is incompetent, negligent, or inadvertent puts an organization at risk through carelessness. Negligent insiders are generally familiar with security policies and IT best practices, but choose to ignore them, creating risk for the organization. Out of convenience or incompetence, these unintentional insider threats actively try to bypass security controls. Against security policies, they leave vulnerable data and resources unsecured, giving attackers easy access

Therefore, organizations should take proactive action to mitigate employee mistakes and follow best practices to protect themselves from insider threats.

Script kiddies (skiddies)

“Script kiddies,” also known as “skiddies,” are threat actors with little experience—newcomers to illicit online communities—who generally engage in areas of cybercrime with a low barrier to entry.  The term is used pejoratively to describe actors who, for example, may not understand how a programming language works but are able to download and use scripts written by others.

For example, there are many publicly available tools which can be used for credential stuffing that do not require any real knowledge of penetration testing or programming; therefore, script kiddies have a propensity to engage in this activity.

Cyber threat actor tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs)

DDoS

A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, service, or network by flooding it with internet traffic. DDoS attacks are most effective when utilizing multiple compromised computer systems as sources of attack traffic. DDoS attacks are often pivoted to enable threat actors to steal data from the victim. 

Malware

Malware refers to software that is purposefully designed in order to cause damage to a computer or other network resource. There are a variety of malware attack types—including trojans, worms, stealers, rootkits, cryptojacking, keyloggers, and ransomware—all of which allow actors to gain access to specific network resources and steal data. 

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware wherein threat actors employ encryption in order to lock up a victim’s data and then hold it ransom. 

Extortionist ransomware refers to the practice of publishing, or threatening to publish, stolen data from an infected server in order to pressure the victim to pay the ransom. This type of ransomware means that backing up data no longer mitigates the threat of ransomware attacks.

Cloud

Cloud resources common vulnerabilities and misconfigurations are often exploited by threat actors before or soon after they have been disclosed. From there, threat actors can pivot their access to exfiltrate data to later resell in illicit marketplaces, or attempt to move laterally through the cloud environment.

Third-party

Threat actors will target third party software or technology solutions providers in order to infect a larger number of downstream customers. Managed service providers, cloud service providers, and other IT services providers are integrated into corporate environments and possibly interact with organizational data. 

Social engineering

Social engineering methods are often leveraged by threat actors to serve as initial entry points to a certain network or resource. This type of attack takes advantage of the human element within any cyber environment. Phishing is a popular form of social engineering that involves sending correspondence (phishing email, e.g.) from a seemingly reputable source in order to manipulate a human element and gain access to a cyber environment. 

Brute forcing and Credential Stuffing

Brute forcing is the act of programatically guessing all possible combinations of a potential piece of data, such as a password.

Credential stuffing is the act of using a previously obtained list of passwords to try to gain access to a victim’s account. These two attacks are closely related, and threat actors commonly use the term “brute forcing” or “brute” to refer to them both. 

For example, a threat actor who wants to gain access to streaming accounts might buy a list of usernames and password hashes obtained from a compromised dating site. They will then attempt to “crack” those password hashes by brute forcing them—i.e. guessing and hashing all possible combinations of letters in order to determine what plaintext passwords those hashes represent. 

Finally, as an example of credential stuffing, the threat actor will take that list of usernames—and, now, plaintext passwords from the dating site—and try all username:password pairs on the streaming site in the hope that some users signed up for both services using same username/password combination.

There are many variations on this kind of attack. For example, “reverse brute forcing” tries one common password with a list of many usernames, and some attacks use “brute forcing tools” in order to test username:password combinations on multiple sites at the same time. However, ultimately, these attacks all have unauthorized access to victim accounts as their goal. 

Prepare for Ransomware and Cyber Extortion with Flashpoint

Keep track of IOCs associated with groups known to target your industry on the Flashpoint platform. Request a demo or sign up for a free 90-day trial and see firsthand how Flashpoint cybersecurity technology can help your organization access critical information and insights into ransomware actors and their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

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