The US government has announced a reward of up to $ 10 million (approximately Rs. 74.6 crore) for information that leads to the arrest of people behind ransomware attacks on critical US infrastructure . The award will be presented as part of the State Department’s Awards for Justice (RFJ) program. However, this is the first time that a U.S. federal agency has added cryptocurrency as a payment option. The department also said the program has set up a Dark Web (Tor-based) channel to report tricks aimed at protecting the safety and security of potential sources.
The move came at a time when the United States is facing an increase in ransomware attacks. In May, a group of hackers crippled the nation’s largest gasoline pipeline between Houston and New Jersey. The FBI blamed DarkSide, which some claim to be based in Russia or Eastern Europe, for the attack.
The State Department said the award is for information about cybercriminals “acting under the direction or control of a foreign government” to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer. “Protected computers include not only the computer systems of the US government and financial institutions, but also those used or affecting commerce or communication interstate or abroad,” he added in a statement.
The ministry added that the program is also working with interagency partners to enable “possible relocation and payment of rewards to sources.” Reward payments can include cryptocurrency payments.
Detailed information on the reward offer can be found here.
Ransomware is malware designed to lock down computers by encrypting data. The people behind these attacks demand payment to allow the institutions of the individuals to regain access to their computers. The ransom demand can vary depending on the size of the system held hostage and the group behind the attack, according to cyber experts. However, hackers have made millions in recent years attacking manufacturers, hospitals, schools and even local schools.
The RFJ program is managed by the Diplomatic Security Service.
Over the past few months, US President Joe Biden has spoken forcefully about ransomware attacks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the White House has stepped up efforts to curb malicious activity.