Authorities in the United States and Germany announced on Thursday the dismantling of one of the main attack networks of ransomware in the world, called “Hive”, accused of having extorted some 1,500 entities in 80 countries.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Hive’s servers were seized and its site on the dark web, the part of the internet not accessible by conventional browsers, was seized.
“Last night, the Department of Justice dismantled an international ransomware ring responsible for extorting and attempting to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from victims in the United States and around the world.”Garland said at a press conference in Washington.
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The operation was carried out in coordination with the police forces of Germany and the Netherlands, as well as with Europol, said the director of the US federal police (FBI), Christopher Wray.
After infiltrating a computer system, ransomware hackers encrypt companies’ data and demand payment to unlock it.
First detected in June 2021, Hive is accused of collecting more than $100 million in ransom. If victims refused to pay, Hive threatened to post confidential internal files and documents online.
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According to specialized cybersecurity firms, Hive’s victims included Costa Rica’s public health service, India’s Tata Power, German retail giant Media Markt, Indonesia’s state-owned gas company and several US hospital groups.
On Thursday, Hive’s darkweb site was frozen and a screen that alternated in English and Russian said it had been taken over by the FBI.
“We hack the hackers”
By June, the FBI had successfully penetrated Hive’s networks and recovered its encryption key, which it offered to victims around the world in the months that followed, allowing them to avoid paying $130 million in ransoms. Wray said.
Thanks to this, a Texas school district, a Louisiana hospital and an unnamed food service company, for example, did not have to pay millions of dollars in ransom after being attacked by Hive, US officials said.
The FBI also distributed copies of this key to former Hive victims so they could fully recover their data.
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“Unfortunately, during these seven months, we found that only 20% of Hive victims had alerted the police”, said the head of the FBI, who called on all companies and entities to contact their agents as soon as possible in the event of an attack.
The prosecutor’s office in Stuttgart, Germany, said in a statement that the operation, dubbed “Dawnbreaker”, had its origin in an investigation that its services opened after attacks against companies in the region.
These, however,they did not give in to blackmail and informed the authorities”, he stressed.
“Once again, it has been shown that intense cooperation and mutual trust across borders and continents is the key to an effective fight against major cybercrime.”, said Udo Vogel, police chief of Reutlingen (southwestern Germany), quoted in the statement.
“We hack hackers”, celebrated the number two of the US Department of Justice, Lisa Monaco.
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“For months, we helped victims fight their attackers and deprived the network of their criminal profits.“, said.
US authorities did not say who is behind Hive or if there would be any arrests after the operation, indicating that the investigation is ongoing.
The investigation involved the FBI, Germany’s Reutlingen Police Headquarters, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police, the Netherlands’ National High-Tech Crime Unit, and Europol.
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