Ransomware payments surged to an unprecedented $1.1 billion in 2023, as per a recent Chainalysis report unveiled on Wednesday, The Hill reported.
The analysis from the New York-based firm highlights the escalating menace of ransomware, with cybercriminals relentlessly targeting various sectors, including high-profile companies like British Airways and crucial infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and government agencies, resulting in an uptick in ransom payments.
The $1.1 billion figure contrasts with the $567 million extracted in 2022, indicating the intensifying severity of ransomware threats, as underscored in the report.
Cybercriminal factions, employing what is called a big game hunting tactic, have strategically focused on a diverse array of targets including educational institutions, medical facilities, and casinos. This strategy, characterized by fewer but more impactful attacks, has enabled perpetrators to secure larger ransoms with each strike, Chainalysis notes.
One example involved casino operator Caesars Entertainment which fell victim to a cyberattack last September, closely following a similar incident involving MGM Resorts International. MGM Resorts reported grappling with “cybersecurity issues,” leading to partial shutdowns of its hotel and casino computer systems.
The aftermath of such attacks can be financially crippling, with MGM Resorts shouldering an estimated $100 million in recovery expenses.
However, the full extent of losses incurred in the aftermath of such breaches often surpasses millions of dollars, as exemplified by the case of U.S. fuel operator Colonial Pipeline, which faced operational disruptions for several days following a ransomware assault in May.
In a bid to combat the scourge of ransomware, the U.S. State Department has announced a reward of up to $10 million for individuals providing actionable intelligence leading to the identification or apprehension of key figures associated with Hive, a notorious global ransomware syndicate. Hive, infamous for extorting over $100 million in ransom payments, was dismantled by the Department of Justice in January the previous year.
The Justice Department unveiled the formation of the National Security Cyber Section, dubbed NatSec Cyber, in June. This litigating unit, situated within its National Security Division, received congressional endorsement. The initiative stems from Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco’s Comprehensive Cyber Review released in July 2022, the DOJ announced.
“NatSec Cyber will give us the horsepower and organizational structure we need to carry out key roles of the Department in this arena,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division (NSD).
“This new section will allow NSD to increase the scale and speed of disruption campaigns and prosecutions of nation-state threat actors, state-sponsored cybercriminals, associated money launderers, and other cyber-enabled threats to national security.”
Jim Thomas ✉
Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.
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