Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Moscow says it has, at Washington’s request, cracked down on the cybercrime group of ransomware suspected of attacks on US companies.

Russia dismantled the ransom crime group REvil at the request of the United States in an operation in which it detained and charged the group’s members, according to the Russian Federal Security Service’s (FSB) domestic intelligence service.

The FSB said in a statement on Friday that it had suppressed “the illegal activities” of members of the group during raids on 25 addresses that incited 14 people.

The arrests were a rare apparent demonstration of US-Russian cooperation in a time of high tension between the two over Ukraine.

The announcement came as Ukraine responded to a massive cyber attack that shut down government websites, although there was no indication that the incidents were related.

A senior administration official, wishing to remain anonymous, told Reuters: “We understand that one of the individuals arrested today was responsible for the attack on Colonial Pipeline last spring.”

A cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline in May that led to widespread guest shortages on the U.S. East Coast took advantage of encryption software called DarkSide, developed by REvil partners.

One US official quoted by the AFP news agency also praised the arrests, saying: “I want to be very clear – in our minds it is not related to what is happening with Russia and Ukraine.

“I do not speak for the Kremlin’s motives, but we are satisfied with this initial action,” she said on condition of anonymity.

“We were also very clear – if Russia invades Ukraine further … we will impose a serious cost on Russia in coordination with our allies.”

The FSB listed seized REvil assets, including 426 million rubles, $ 600,000, 500,000 euros, computer equipment and 20 luxury cars.

A Moscow court has identified two of the men as Roman Muromsky and Andrei Bessonov and detained them for two months.

Two people familiar with Muromsky told Reuters news agency he is a web developer who has helped them with websites for their businesses.

Red light illuminates the keys of a laptopThe group members have been charged and could face up to seven years in prison, the FSB said [File: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg]

No official comment from the US

Russia has told Washington directly about the steps it has taken against the group, the FSB said. The US embassy in Moscow said it could not immediately comment.

“The investigative measures were based on a request from the … United States,” the FSB said. “… The organized criminal society has ceased to exist and the information infrastructure used for criminal purposes has been neutralized.”

The REN TV channel broadcast footage of agents raiding houses and arresting people, pinning them to the floor and seizing large piles of dollars and Russian rubles.

The group members have been charged and could face up to seven years in prison, the FSB said.

A source familiar with the matter told Russian news agency Interfax that the group’s members with Russian citizenship would not be handed over to the United States.

The U.S. said in November it was offering a reward of up to $ 10 million for information leading to the identification or location of anyone holding a key position in the REvil group.

The country has been hit by a series of high-profile hacks by cybercriminals seeking ransom. A source with direct knowledge of the case told Reuters in June that REvil was suspected of a ransom attack on the world’s largest meat packaging company, JBS SA.

Washington has repeatedly accused the Russian state in the past of malicious activities on the Internet, which Moscow denies. REvil has not been associated with any major attacks for months.

Muromsky, who was arrested in Friday’s raids, is in his thirties and was born in Anapa in Russia’s south, a client of his told Reuters. “He worked as a normal programmer.”

Another client, Adam Guzuyev, described Muromsky as “an ordinary normal worker” who was unable to install all the features that Guzuyev wanted to install on his website.

“He did not earn more than 60 000 rubles. “I can not say he has genius abilities,” he said.

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