The United States announced Thursday that it has offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to the discovery of those responsible for the ransomware hacking group Darkside.
The US administration accuses the Russia-based group of being behind attacks in recent months, especially the Colonial Pipeline, the main refined petroleum derivatives pipeline in the United States.
Ransomware programs or “ransomware” are extortions practiced by hackers who take advantage of a security hole in the information networks of companies or even individuals. They break into these networks, encrypt their data, and then demand a ransom from their owners, usually paid in encrypted currency, in exchange for restarting the network.
“By offering this reward, the United States is demonstrating its commitment to preventing cybercriminals from exploiting ransomware victims around the world,” the State Department said in a statement.
Washington also offered a second reward of five million dollars to anyone who provides it with information leading to the arrest or indictment, in any country, of any person attempting to participate in an attack on Darkside’s account.
Recent attacks on the oil pipeline network, a meatpacking company and Microsoft Exchange’s email system have drawn attention to the vulnerability of America’s infrastructure to hackers who extort huge sums of money from these giant companies.
Darkside, according to experts, is made up of seasoned cybercriminals who infiltrate the systems of companies often based in the West and extort their data and extort money to “return” it.
And cybercrime is on the rise, as the latest data released in October showed that in the first half of this year, US authorities received reports of $590 million in ransomware-related payments, 42% more than the total ransom payments announced by financial institutions in the world. All of 2020, according to a US Treasury report.
Experts say that the real cost is much greater than that, and they are likely to be in the billions.
Companies and organizations face intense pressure to pay the required amount in order to gain access to their data, but also to cover up the attack so that customers do not know it and the authorities issue stern warnings not to pay ransom money to criminals