HelloKitty ransomware gang behind CD Projekt hack

Cyberpunk 2077 game displayed on monitor behind a black PlayStation controller
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The cyber attack on Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt was likely orchestrated by the same ransomware gang responsible for targeting Brazillian energy company CEMIG late last year.

That's according to Emsisoft CTO Fabian Wosar, who shared his findings regarding this week's attack on Twitter.

The ransomware gang responsible for the incident is known to security researchers as 'HelloKitty', named after the mutex deployed when the malware executable is launched, as explained by BleepingComputer.

Wosar came to the conclusion after comparing the ransom notes left on both occasions and finding convincing similarities. He also debunked the possibility that the attack on CD Projekt was orchestrated by a former employee or a customer left unsatisfied by the developer’s latest release, Cyberpunk 2077. Following its launch in December 2020, the game had garnered headlines due to being plagued with bugs.

“This has nothing to do with disgruntled gamers and is just your average ransomware,” he said on Twitter. “I can see the appeal of the 'this was revenge by a former fan', but life is much more boring than that.”

In a statement confirming the attack, CD Projekt made it clear that they were not intending to give in to the hackers' demands nor pay the ransom.

Asked about the likely consequences of this decision, Wosar told IT Pro that the data obtained by HelloKitty, which includes documents containing accounting, administration, legal, HR, and investor relations information, “will most likely be leaked”.

Speculating about the identity of the hackers, Wosar said that he “wouldn't be surprised if the group or the affiliate who pulled off the hack grew up with western culture”.

“They certainly have a better command of the English language than your average ransomware thug. The ransomware is also missing the usual check for CIS countries,” he added.

According to Wosar, HelloKitty has been active since November 2020. In December, the group targeted Brazillian electric power provider CEMIG in an attempt to obtain a large amount of the company’s data. The company stated that the ransomware attack “caused limited damage” but managed to impact the company’s online service to its customers.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.