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Hackers demanding bitcoin payments for code held hostage from GitHub and GitLab

Hackers are demanding bitcoin payments in exchange for code that they have extracted from GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket repositories, through ransom notes that they have left behind for their victims.

Hackers have removed all the source code from the repositories, and in exchange is a ransom note that demands 0.1 bitcoin, which is equivalent to about $570. The hackers claim to be willing to send proof that they are indeed holding the code hostage, backed up on their own servers.

“If we don’t receive your payment in the next 10 days, we will make your code public or use them otherwise,” the hackers wrote to end the ransom note.

There were a total of 392 GitHub repositories that had their commits and code wiped out by an account named gitbackup, which was created seven years ago on January 25, 2012, according to Bleeping Computer. So far, none of the victims have succumbed and paid the ransom to the hackers, which is good as there is no assurance that the code will indeed be returned.

It remains unclear how the hacker or hackers are gaining access to the repositories to be able to wipe out the stored codes and leave behind the ransom note. One user received a response from Atlassian, the company behind Bitbucket and the cross-platform free Git client SourceTree, regarding an attempted breach.

“Within the past few hours, we detected and blocked an attempt — from a suspicious IP address — to log in with your Atlassian account. We believe that someone used a list of login details stolen from third-party services in an attempt to access multiple accounts,” Atlassian told the user.

According to investigations by GitHub, in cooperation with the security teams of other affected companies, there was no evidence that the authentication systems of the repositories were compromised. It appears that the account credentials of the victims were acquired by hackers from third-party exposures, which is one of the risks of using a username and password in more than one service.

GitHub recommends its customers to use two-factor authentication, in conjunction with strong passwords, for better protection. However, one victim said that the hackers were still able to gain access even with two-factor authentication enabled, suggesting a vulnerability within GitHub’s systems.

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