(PresidentialWire.com)- According to an Associated Press report by Angela Charlton and Frank Bajak, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government are providing a safe harbor for ransomware, aiding a “global epidemic of digital extortion.”
The report claims that ransomware, which holds users ransom by withholding important data and demanding something (usually money) in return, is crippling local governments, businesses, school districts, and even hospitals – and so far, law enforcement hasn’t developed an effective system to stop it.
According to the reporters, the ransomware industry is made up predominantly of Russian-speaking cybercriminals, and they are protected and sometimes even employed by Russian intelligence agencies. At least, that’s what the Biden administration, security researchers, and U.S. law enforcement are saying.
And while the United States has known for a long time that Russia is willing to use dirty tactics like ransomware to get ahead globally, President Joe Biden making these claims muddies the waters and makes it more difficult to understand the true nature of the threat for the simple reason that he continues to push the debunked Trump-Russian collusion conspiracy theory.
How are we meant to know what’s true anymore?
On Thursday, the Biden administration placed new sanctions on Russia for state-backed hacking, with the Treasury Department revealing that ransomware attacks were being enabled by Russian intelligence. The financial damage caused by ransomware is understood to be in the tens of billions of dollars.
“The value of Kremlin protection isn’t lost on the cybercriminals themselves,” the report added. Earlier this year, a Russian-language dark-web forum lit up with criticism of a ransomware purveyor known only as “Bugatti,” whose gang had been caught in a rare U.S.-Europol sting. The assembled posters accused him of inviting the crackdown with technical sloppiness and by recruiting non-Russian affiliates who might be snitches or undercover cops.”
Michael Van Landingham, a former CIA analyst who now runs a consultancy business, said that cybercriminals work like any other major industry in Russia – “kind of with the tacit consent and sometimes explicit consent of the security services.”
Karen Kazaryan, the CEO of the Internet Research Institute in Moscow, also said that the simple rule to follow in Russia is to not act against their country’s own interests.
“Just don’t ever work against your country and businesses in this country,” she said. “If you steal something from Americans, that’s fine.”
The shocking report explained how some hackers were demanding as much as $50 million to restore files, with American law enforcement working in recent months with partners across Bulgaria and Ukraine to tackle the problem, but the Kremlin is ahead of the game and reportedly enlising criminal hackers by offering them a decision between working for the state or going to prison.