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Justice Department plans more arrests in ransomware crackdown: AP

Department of Justice building.jpg

The Justice Department is revving up its efforts to combat ransomware and cybercrime, the Associated Press reported.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, the No. 2 official in the department, told the news service that “in the days and weeks to come, you’re going to see more arrests”, more seizures of ransom payments to hackers and additional law enforcement operations.

In July, the FBI seized $2.3mn of bitcoin Colonial Pipeline paid as ransom when the oil and gas pipeline operator was shut down with a ransomware attack. Colonial had a $15mn policy led by Axa XL.

The disruption from the Colonial Pipeline attack and others this year have led President Joe Biden to call the issue an urgent economic and national security threat.

“If you come for us, we’re going to come for you,” Monaco told the AP in an interview. She declined to say who could face prosecution.

Monaco said the US continues to experience a “steady drumbeat” of attacks despite Biden’s effort to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to quell hackers, such as the group behind the SolarWinds attacks in January, the breach of meat processor JBS in late May and the hack of the Florida-based IT firm Kaseya in July.

“We have not seen a material change in the landscape. Only time will tell as to what Russia may do on this front,” Monaco said.

“We are not going to stop,” she continued. “We’re going to continue to press forward to hold accountable those who seek to go after our industries, hold their data hostage and threaten economic security, national security and personal security.”

The Justice Department formed a ransomware task force in April and directed US attorney offices to report ransomware cases to Washington as they would terror attacks.

Last month, the agency extradited an accused Russian hacker, Vladimir Dunaev, from South Korea. Prosecutors said Dunaev was part of the cyber gang whose malicious software – “Trickbot” – infected millions of computers, the AP reported.

“You’re going to see more actions like you saw last week in the days and weeks to come,” Monaco said.

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