US knocks hard on ransomware attacks, creates task force for cybercriminals

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TL;DR Breakdown

  • US setup taskforce to fight ransomware attackers
  • Ransomware attackers forced major US firms to pay ransom after hacks
  • US plans $10m bounty on ransomware attackers

Towards stamping out the menace of ransomware attacks, the United States has established a new task force mandated to combat cyberattacks and tracing crypto paid as ransom.

According to Bloomberg on Thursday, the dedicated ransomware task force would help end the growing spate of ransomware attacks in the US.

Reportedly, the topic was discussed during a virtual briefing with members of Congress on Wednesday. The task force would analyze and trace crypto transfers that companies that were attacked pay to cybercriminals.

The hacks were highly disruptive in that they had a massive effect on companies that were attacked. The attack on the Colonial Pipeline, for example, led to fuel shortages across the US and price hacks.

The company had to pay ransom to the hacker group worth $5m in crypto, which may not be traceable. Reports emerged later that authorities recovered $4.4 million worth of the Bitcoin sent.

Similar hack on JBS USA Holdings Inc, another firm into food processing, led it to pay $11 million in Bitcoin to ransomware attackers. The hack made the US raise the level of ransomware hacks to the level of terrorism.

Beyond taskforce, other US plans to curb ransomware attacks

At the Wednesday meeting, deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger noted that they are working on a new strategy that includes efforts to disrupt ransomware attacks, quell the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for such illegal activities.

She notes that works are also going underground to partner nations and convince them from harboring cybercriminals.

In curbing ransomware attacks, the State Department also considered launching a new bounty program that will offer rewards up to $10 million for people who bring information that would result in the identification of alleged cybercriminals, according to Politico’s report.

Cybercriminals who are notorious for attacking critical infrastructures are being targeted by the US government.

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