State Department offers $15M award for Lockbit information

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco (pictured in April on Capitol Hill) said a $15 million award for information about the ransomware group Lockbit is a way of "putting victims first" in an effort to stop the cyber crimes. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The State Department on Wednesday announced a $15 million award for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of anyone participating in the notorious ransomware group Lockbit, including identification and location of its key leaders.

Lockbit has been involved in more than 2,000 known attacks against victims globally, including in the United States, costing consumers some $120 million.

The award is being announced in combined efforts by the Justice Department and the FBI, along with Britain's National Crime Agency.

The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it charged two Russian nationals, Artur Sungatov and Ivan Kondratyev, for deploying LockBit against numerous businesses in the United States. Kondratyev also has another charge for a specific case in California.

"[Tuesday's] actions are another down payment on our pledge to continue dismantling the ecosystem fueling cybercrime by prioritizing disruptions and placing victims first," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement.

The National Crime Agency said on Tuesday that it and other law enforcement supporters had infiltrated Lockibit online and captured many of its digital tools, including decryption keys that can be used to unlock files of companies held for ransom by the cybercriminals.

"Using all our authorities and working alongside partners in the United States and around the world, we have now destroyed the online backbone of the Lockbit group, one of the world's most prolific ransomware gangs," Monaco said.

The U.K.'s NCA director General Graeme Biggar called Lockbit one the world's "most harmful" cybercriminals, locking the files of hospitals, for example, and forcing them to pay millions to get access again.

"It shows that no criminal operation, wherever they are, and no matter how advanced, is beyond the reach of the agency and our partners," Biggar said.