FBI has seized website used by notorious ransomware gang

The FBI has seized a website that a notorious ransomware gang, which has extorted more than $100 million from victim organizations, has used to shame its victims, according to a posting on the website.

The dark-web website of the so-called Hive ransomware group displayed a message Thursday that it had been taken over “as part of a coordinated law enforcement action” against the group by the FBI, Secret Service and numerous European government agencies.

Reported US victim organizations of Hive include a 314-bed hospital in Louisiana. The hospital said it thwarted a ransomware attack in October, but that the hackers still stole personal data on nearly 270,000 patients, CNN reported.

As of November, Hive ransomware had been used to extort about $100 million from over 1,300 companies worldwide — many of them in health care — the FBI and other federal agencies have warned.

The seizure comes ahead of an expected announcement at the Justice Department later on Thursday where the DOJ and FBI will hold a press conference expected to deal with the seizure.

Thursday’s announcement is the latest in a series of Justice Department efforts to crack down on overseas ransomware groups that lock up US companies’ computers, disrupt their operations and demand millions of dollars to unlock the systems. Justice officials have seized millions of dollars in ransomware payments and urged companies not to pay off the criminals.

The ransomware epidemic grew more urgent for US officials after Colonial Pipeline, the major pipeline operator for sending fuel to the East Coast, shut down for days in May 2021 due to a ransomware attack from a suspected Russian cybercriminal. The disruption led to long lines at gas stations in multiple states as people hoarded fuel.

While the ransomware economy remains lucrative, there are signs that the US and international law enforcement stings are making a dent in the hackers’ earnings. Ransomware revenue fell to about $457 million in 2022, down from $766 million in 2021, according to data from cryptocurrency-tracking firm Chainalysis.

Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray detailed the international law enforcement action Thursday morning.

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