For information leading to the identification and arrest of foreign-sanctioned malicious hacking activity, such as ransomware attack against U.S. infrastructure, the State Department will pay up to $10,000,000. The White House has established a task force to coordinate efforts to stop the ransomware epidemic.
A senior administration official said that the Biden administration also has a website stopransomware.gov which offers public resources to counter the threat and build more resilience into networks.
The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which was established Thursday, will collaborate with technology companies, banks, and other organizations to improve anti-money laundering efforts for cryptocurrency, and faster tracing ransomware proceeds that are paid in virtual currency.
Officials hope to seize more ransomware payments as extortion proceeds, just like the FBI did when it recovered most of the $4.4 Million ransom Colonial Pipeline paid in May.
The State Department’s Reward Program provides the rewards. The agency released a statement saying that it will provide a tip-reporting mechanism for the dark web to help protect sources who may identify cyber attackers or their locations. Reward payments could include cryptocurrency.
An administration official declined to comment on Tuesday’s online disappearance by REvil, the Russian-linked gang that attacked over 1,000 organizations worldwide and targeted Kaseya, a Florida-based software company. Ransomware can disable entire networks of data that criminals can unlock once they are paid.
Cybersecurity experts believe that REvil might have dropped out of sight and decided to rebrand under a different name, just as several ransomware gangs did in the past to discredit law enforcement.
Another possibility is that Russian President Vladimir Putin heeded President Joe Biden’s warning about the repercussions if ransomware criminals were not controlled, which would be a serious offense to Russia and its allies.
This seemed unlikely, however, considering Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s Wednesday statement to reporters that he wasn’t aware of REvil sites being lost.
He said, “I don’t know where the group went.” He stated that the Kremlin considers cybercrimes unacceptable and warrants punishment. However, analysts claim they have not seen any evidence of a Putin crackdown.
Wednesday’s White House update provided updates to lawmakers on how the administration responded to recent high-profile ransomware attack attacks. This threat was a priority for national security.
Senator Angus King from Maine said he was impressed by the “thoroughness” with which the issue is being addressed, especially with outreach to private sector.