''We are at war,'' Mr. Chavez said during a news conference on Monday. He said 27 government institutions had been affected by the ransomware attack, nine of them significantly.

The attack began on April 12, according to Mr. Chavez's administration, when hackers who said they were affiliated with Conti broke into Costa Rica's Ministry of Finance, which runs the tax system.

From there, the ransomware spread to agencies that oversee technology and telecommunications, the government said this month.

A Russian hacking cartel carried out an extraordinary cyberattack against the government of Costa Rica, crippling tax collection and export systems for more than a month so far and leading the country to declare a state of emergency.

The ransomware gang Conti, which is based in Russia, claimed responsibility for the attack, which began on April 12. It has threatened to leak the stolen information unless it is paid $20 million.

Experts who track Conti's movements said the group had recently begun to shift its focus from the United States and Europe to countries in Central and South America, perhaps to retaliate against nations that have supported Ukraine.

Some experts also believe Conti feared a crackdown by the United States and was seeking fresh targets, regardless of politics. The group is responsible for more than 1,000 ransomware attacks worldwide that have led to payments of more than $150 million, according to estimates from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

''The ransomware cartels figured out multinational in the U.S. and Western Europe are less likely to blink if they need to pay some ungodly sum in order to get their business running,'' said Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade, a principal threat researcher at SentinelOne, a cybersecurity software company.

''But at some point, you are going to tap out that space.''

Whatever the reason for the shift, the hack showed that Conti was still acting aggressively despite speculation that it might disband after it was the target of a hacking operation in the early days of Russia's war on Ukraine.

The gang, which pledged its support to Russia after the invasion, routinely aims its operations at businesses and local government agencies by breaking into their systems, encrypting data and demanding a ransom to restore it.

Of the Costa Rica hacking, Brett Callow, a threat analyst at Emsisoft, a cybersecurity business, said that ''it's possibly the most significant ransomware attack to date.''

''This is the first time I can recall a ransomware attack resulting in a national emergency before being declared,'' he said.

Costa Rica has said it refused to pay the ransom.

The hacking campaign occurred after Costa Rica's presidential elections and quickly became a political cudgel. The previous administration played down the attack in its first official news releases, portraying it as a technical problem and projecting an image of stability and calm.

But the newly elected president, Rodrigo Chavez, began his term by declaring a national emergency.

''With governments, intelligence agencies and diplomatic circles, the debilitating part of the attack is really not the ransomware. It's the data exfiltration,'' said Mr. Guerrero-Saade of SentinelOne.

''You're in a position where presumably incredibly sensitive information is in the hands of a third party.''

The breach, among other attacks carried out by Conti led the U.S. State Department to join with the Costa Rican government to offer a $10 million reward to anyone who provided information that led to the identification of key leaders of the hacking group.

''The group perpetrated a ransomware incident against the government of Costa Rica that severely impacted the country's foreign trade by disrupting its customs and taxes platforms,'' a State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said in a statement.

''In offering this reward, the United States demonstrates its commitment to protecting potential ransomware victims around the world from exploitation by cyber-criminals.

The Publishing continues into the future. The World Students Society thanks authors Kate Conger and David Bolanos.


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