The US Department of State announced a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the identification or location of any individual(s) who hold(s) a key leadership position in the DarkSide ransomware gang responsible for the Colonial Pipeline cyber attack.
In addition, the Department is also offering a reward offer of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction in any country of any individual conspiring to participate in or attempting to participate in a DarkSide variant ransomware incident.
The DarkSide ransomware group was responsible for the Colonial Pipeline Company ransomware incident in May 2021, which led to the company’s decision to proactively and temporarily shut down the 5,500-mile pipeline that carries 45 percent of the fuel used on the East Coast of the United States.
DarkSide, the ransomware gang responsible for the attack, first emerged in the threat landscape in August 2020, and was highly active in 2021, targeting organizations worldwide. Affiliates of the ransomware-as-a-service group initially gained access to the victim's network to encrypt files on internal systems and exfiltrate data, then threaten to expose the data if Colonial Pipeline refused to pay the ransom.
“In offering this reward, the United States demonstrates its commitment to protecting ransomware victims around the world from exploitation by cybercriminals. The United States looks to nations who harbor ransomware criminals that are willing to bring justice for those victim businesses and organizations affected by ransomware,” the press release reads.
Immediately after the attack on Colonial Pipeline, Darkside pointed out that it was financially motivated and that there was no political motivation behind the intrusion.
The attacks against critical infrastructure also led US President Joe Biden to sign an executive order to improve the country’s defenses against cyberattacks.
“The United States faces persistent and increasingly sophisticated malicious cyber campaigns that threaten the public sector, the private sector, and ultimately the American people’s security and privacy. The Federal Government must improve its efforts to identify, deter, protect against, detect, and respond to these actions and actors,” reads the 34-page document.
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