US Says It ‘Hacked the Hackers’ to Bring Down Ransomware Gang

One of the most dangerous and prolific hacker gangs has been brought down. U.S. authorities have seized the servers of the notorious Hive ransomware group. 

The hacking group has received more than $100 million in extortion payments from thousands of victims. It tended to target hospitals, schools, and public infrastructure. 

Law enforcement infiltrated Hive’s systems and captured the keys to decrypt its attack software, the Department of Justice announced.

The website for the group showed a message saying it had been seized by an international law enforcement coalition including the Justice Department and the FBI.

Ransomware is a type of malicious attack that infiltrates a computer network and makes files inaccessible. Hackers then demand a ransom to unlock the system, typically in the form of cryptocurrency. The Hive group was known to re-infiltrate networks that tried to circumvent their attacks.

Hive used a “ransomware-as-a-service” model, where its developers sold their ransomware code to affiliates, who carried out the actual attacks – an arrangement that makes it harder for authorities to identify and investigate the hackers behind the group.

At a news conference, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco said government hackers broke into Hive’s network and put the gang under surveillance, surreptitiously stealing the digital keys the group used to unlock victim organizations’ data.

The FBI said the maneuver allowed the bureau to thwart the group from collecting more than $130 million in ransomware demands from more than 300 victims.

The months-long operation started in Florida last year. 

It involved FBI agents accessing Hive’s network and providing victims with the decryption keys needed to regain control of their systems, blocking the whopping $130 million in demanded ransoms.

The treasury department has estimated that ransomware attacks cost US organizations $886m in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available.

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