The United States of America has offered a reward of $10 million for anyone who provides information leading to ransomware gang DarkSide.
The U.S. administration accuses this Russian-based group of being behind attacks in recent months, especially Colonial Pipeline, the main refined oil derivatives pipeline network in the U.S..
Cyber-extortion heists involve breaking into a company or institution’s network to encrypt its data, then demanding a ransom, typically paid via cryptocurrency in exchange for the digital key to unlock it.
“In offering this reward, the United States demonstrates its commitment to protecting ransomware victims around the world from exploitation by cyber criminals,” said a U.S. State Department statement.
Washington also offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of anyone who tries to join in an attack with DarkSide.
Recent attacks on oil pipelines, 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 huge companies.
Darkside, according to experts, consists of seasoned cybercriminals who infiltrate the systems of companies often based in the West, seize their data and blackmail them financially to “return” this data.
Cybercrime is on the rise. Latest data released in October showed that, in the first half of this year, U.S. authorities received reports of $590 million in ransom-related payments. This 42% more than the total ransom payments announced by financial institutions in 2015, according to a U.S. Treasury report.
Experts say that the real losses 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.