The US Department of Justice will give ransomware-related investigations the same priority as terrorism cases, Reuters has reported citing a senior department official.
US prosecutors have received an internal notice according to which information about ransomware attacks will be passed on to a newly created task force in Washington. The principle associate deputy attorney general of the Department of Justice, John Carlin, said:
"It’s a specialized process to ensure we track all ransomware cases regardless of where it may be referred in this country, so you can make the connections between actors and work your way up to disrupt the whole chain."
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The US authorities turned their attention to ransomware after hackers used the technique to attack the country's largest pipeline network, Colonial Pipeline. The hackers crippled its systems and demanded a ransom to restore access. Analyst firm Elliptic estimates the hacking group DarkSide, which was blamed for the Colonial Pipeline attack, has received at least $90 million in Bitcoins as ransoms over the course of its history.
A Reuters source has highlighted the decision of the Department of Justice to classify ransomware investigations as a special proceeding highlights the seriousness of the problem in the country. Practices such as this are used for a short list of issues, including, for example, national security issues. Carlin added:
"We’ve used this model around terrorism before but never with ransomware."