The U.S. government has announced a reward of up to 10 million U.S. dollars (approximately Rs 746 million) to reward the information that those who cause ransomware to attack critical U.S. infrastructure have been arrested. The award will be provided under the State Department’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program. However, this is the first time that a U.S. federal agency has adopted cryptocurrency as a payment option. The department also stated that the plan has established a dark web (Tor-based) channel for reporting reminders to protect the safety and security of potential sources.
This move is made at a time when the United States is facing more and more ransomware attacks. In May, a hacker group paralyzed the largest gasoline pipeline in the United States connecting Houston and New Jersey. The FBI blamed DarkSide for the attack, and some claim that it may be located in Russia or Eastern Europe.
The US State Department stated that the reward is to provide information about cybercriminals “acting in accordance with the instructions or control of foreign governments” deliberately causing damage to protected computers. It added in a statement: “Protected computers include not only the computer systems of the U.S. government and financial institutions, but also computer systems used for or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communications.”
The department added that the program is also working with inter-agency partners to achieve “possible relocation and payment of rewards to sources. Reward payments may include cryptocurrency payments.”
You can access detailed information about bonus offers here.
Ransomware is malicious software designed to lock down computers by encrypting data. The people behind these attacks demand payment to allow individuals to regain access to their computers. Cyber experts say that ransom requirements may vary depending on the size of the system being taken hostage and the organization behind the attack. However, hackers have made millions of dollars in recent years by attacking manufacturers, hospitals, schools, and even local schools.
The RFJ program is running through the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
In recent months, US President Joe Biden has forcibly filed a ransomware attack on Russian President Putin, and the White House has also stepped up its efforts to contain malicious activities.