State Dept. offering $10 million reward to bring Colonial Pipeline hackers to justice
The State Department on Thursday announced a $10 million reward for anyone who can provide information on leaders of the cyber criminal group that launched a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in May, which temporarily crippled gas supply for several states.
The reward is being issued for information on the identity and location of leads of the DarkSide ransomware variant cyber criminal group, which is believed to be based in Russia, and an additional $5 million reward for information on individuals looking to participate in a DarkSide ransomware attack.
The reward was offered as part of the State Department’s Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program, with the agency paying out more than $135 million in rewards to date.
“In offering this reward, the United States demonstrates its commitment to protecting ransomware victims around the world from exploitation by cyber criminals,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
DarkSide was forced offline shortly after the Colonial Pipeline attack due to a reported law enforcement operation.
However, a recent federal advisory warned that the BlackMatter ransomware group behind recent attacks on the agricultural sector was a “possible rebrand of DarkSide,” a revelation that highlighted ongoing concerns.
A spate of ransomware attacks against critical organizations, including schools, hospitals, and specific groups like meat producer JBS USA and IT company Kaseya, have focused the Biden administration’s attention on addressing cyber threats.
Efforts have included President Biden signing an executive order in May to shore up federal cybersecurity, the administration convening more than 30 nations for a meeting on ransomware last month, and Biden meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year to urge him to confront hackers living in Russia.
While the State Department did not mention Russia in issuing the reward, it alluded to the Biden administration’s efforts to pressure Russia into cracking down on cybercriminals.
“The United States looks to nations who harbor ransomware criminals that are willing to bring justice for those victim businesses and organizations affected by ransomware,” Price said.
This is not the first reward the State Department has offered around cyber activity. The agency announced a separate $10 million reward last year for information on individuals working with foreign governments to interfere in U.S elections through cyber means.