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State Department offers $10 million for tips on foreign hackers

State Department seeks to rein in the growing risk of ransomware attacks

Stacks of $100 bills on a white background

On Thursday, the US government announced up to $10 million in rewards for tips leading authorities to malicious hackers working at the behest of foreign governments to target US infrastructure.

The US State Department said “certain malicious cyber operations targeting US critical infrastructure may violate the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act)” and it “set up a Dark Web (Tor-based) tips-reporting channel to protect the safety and security of potential sources.”

According to The Associated Press and Reuters, a White House task force will coordinate efforts to fight the rising scourge of ransomware.

A new federal government website, stopransomware.gov, offers the public resources for countering the threat and building more resilience into networks.

The Treasury Department also announced its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network would work with banks and tech companies on anti-money-laundering (AML) efforts involving cryptocurrency. They will also focus on more rapid ransomware payment tracing.

Investigators hope to seize more extortion payments in ransomware cases, like the Department of Justice did in May when it recovered about $2.3 million of the ransom paid in the Colonial Pipeline hacking case.

The new rewards for tips in ransomware cases will come from the State Department, which will put a tip-reporting mechanism on the dark web to protect sources who might identify cyber attackers and their locations. The reward payments may include cryptocurrency.

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Administration officials wouldn’t comment on whether the government had a hand in Tuesday’s online disappearance of REvil. This Russian-linked gang just launched a massive ransomware attack against Florida-based software provider Kaseya, which reportedly affected 1,500 businesses.

According to The Associated Press, The White House updated lawmakers Wednesday on the administration’s response to the recent rash of high-profile ransomware attacks, a threat it has deemed a national security priority.

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said he was impressed with the “thoroughness with which they are confronting this issue,” particularly with outreach to the private sector.

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