US government to offer bounties of up to $10M to curb ransomware attacks

on Jul 15, 2021
  • The White House has formed a task force to deal with crypto-related cyberattacks.
  • Allegedly, the task force will forge alliances with other nations to prevent harboring attackers.
  • This action is in response to the increasing cases of crypto-related cyberattacks in the US.

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The US government is planning to curb the prevalent use of cryptocurrencies in settling ransomware transactions. A report unveiled this news earlier today, citing people familiar with the matter. Reportedly, the Biden administration intends to offer bounties of up to $10 million in exchange for data that might help it track proceeds that hackers get from ransomware attacks.

According to the report, the White House has formed a task force for tracking the movement of funds obtained from such illicit activities. The task force will also work on regulations that oversee crypto-related cyberattacks and money laundering. On top of this, the team will be tasked with forging partnerships with other countries to ensure attackers do not get refuge. Allegedly, this task force will comprise members of the Treasury and State Departments.

Per the sources, some congress members that participated in a briefing with Deputy National Security Adviser Anne Neuberger showed discontent. One lawmaker said the briefing did not feature discussions about creating a new government agency that would lead the war on ransomware attacks. Instead, the legislator said the briefing revolved around the security of businesses and critical infrastructure.

The sources further disclosed that Neuberger said there isn’t a cybersecurity standard for the private industry and that Congress would have to create one before anything happens.

Ransomware cases on the rise

Hackers continue staging ransomware attacks, targeting US companies. The first high-profile attack came in April when a group of hackers known as Darkside shut down the services of Colonial Pipeline, a leading fuel pipeline in the US, and demanded $5 million (£3.61 million) in ransom. The organisation had no option but to pay the amount in Bitcoin (BTC/USD) as requested.

However, the FBI traced the transaction and exploited a weak password to gain entry into the group’s BTC wallet. The agency then retrieved $2.3 million (£1.66 million) out of the sent amount. To date, how the FBI came to be in possession of the private key of the wallet that granted its agents access to the wallet remains a mystery.

After the Colonial Pipeline attack, a notorious Russian hacking group, REvil, orchestrated the largest global ransomware attack in history. Reportedly, the hackers breached the security system of Kaseya, a Miami-based IT firm, and used the obtained information to compromise 200 US companies and hundreds more across the globe. The attackers then proceeded to demand $70 million (£50.51 million) in BTC to restore the companies’ data.