Russia has launched a special operation against ransomware crime group Revil at the request of the United States and has detained and charged members of the group, the FSB domestic intelligence service said on Friday.
The arrests were a rare clear display of cooperation between Russia and the United States, at a time of high tension between the two over Ukraine. The announcement came as Ukraine was responding to a massive cyberattack that shut down government websites, although there was no indication that the incidents were related.
A joint police and FSB operation searched 25 addresses, detaining 14 people, the FSB said, listing 426 million rubles, $600,000, of assets seized, including 500,000 euros, computer equipment and 20 luxury cars.
The FSB said on its website that Russia informed the United States directly of the steps it had taken against the group. The US embassy in Moscow said it could not immediately comment.
“The investigation measures … were based on the request of the United States,” the FSB said. “… the organized criminal association has ceased to exist and the information infrastructure to be used for criminal purposes has been neutralised.”
The REN TV channel broadcast footage of agents raiding homes and arresting people, pinning them to the floor, and confiscating large piles of dollars and Russian ruble.
Members of the group have been charged and could face up to seven years in prison.
A source familiar with the matter told Interfax that members of the group with Russian citizenship would not be assigned to the United States.
The United States said in November that it was offering a reward of up to $10 million to anyone providing information about the identity or location of a person holding a key position in the Reville Group.
The United States has been hit by high-profile hacks by ransom-seeking cybercriminals. A source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters in June that Reville was suspected of being the group behind the ransomware attack on the world’s largest meatpacking company, JBS SA.
Washington has repeatedly accused the Russian state of malicious activity on the Internet in the past, which Moscow denies.
Russia’s announcement came during the standoff between the US and Russia. Moscow is seeking Western security guarantees, including that NATO will not expand further. He has also prepared his army near Ukraine.