The US government said Thursday it would begin offering rewards of up to $10 million for information to identify or locate cybercriminals working on behalf of foreign governments trying to cripple US businesses’ internet operations and infrastructure.
The new bounty was announced as the US faced a growing threat of attack ransomware – requests from foreign entities that US companies and institutions pay ransoms to unlock critical technology systems that have been seized by hackers. According to US officials, attacks usually come from abroad, often from Russia.
Earlier this year, one of the largest operators of gas distribution pipelines in the US, a large meat processing company and, more recently, hundreds of small businesses have been hit by attacks. ransomware, forcing companies to pay millions of dollars to restore their operations or risk losing critical data.
The US says that about $350 million in ransoms were paid to cybercriminals in 2020, an increase of more than 300 percent from the previous year.
In a statement, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said the government was unable to prevent the attacks ransomware alone.
“It’s critical for business leaders across the industry to recognize these threats, prioritize efforts to strengthen their systems and work with law enforcement to promptly report attacks that occur,” Garland said. [lt/ka]