US government launches new anti-ransomware resource as part of broader campaign

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and other federal entities have launched a new tool called StopRansomware.gov, according to a Thursday release from the DOJ. 

This new resource consolidates information from federal agencies on ransomware, provides news updates on ransomware incidents, and provides a way for individuals to report ransomware attacks to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Its goal is to stop the “fragmentation of resources” that could cause victims of ransomware attacks to “miss important information” when encountering ransomware attacks and thus mitigate ransomware risk. 

Ransomware attacks have gained national attention over the past few months — with ransomware incidents rising to the same level of priority as terrorism attacks after the May 8 Colonial Pipeline cyberattack. 

While StopRansomware.gov appears to be the first major public anti-ransomware tool from the federal government, it is not the first to form. The ransomware payment tracking tool Ransomwhere released last week crowdsources information from ransomware attacks from victims and currently states that there has been nearly $46 million in reported ransomware payments in 2021. 

Ransomwhere was created by current Stanford student Jack Cable, who was “a little surprised that there wasn't really anything out there right now” regarding public ransomware payment data, he told The Block. It is unclear when data gathered by the FBI through StopRansomware.gov will be made public. 

The Department of Justice did share that in 2020, victims paid about $350 million to ransomware attackers — a 300% increase compared to 2019. Small businesses comprise about 75% of ransomware cases but are vastly underreported, according to the release. 

The U.S. government is also putting some financial heft behind a newly created task force focused on ransomware. According to a July 15 statement, the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program is offering as much as $10 million for information on potential actors behind attacks on American infrastructure -- including those involving ransomware.

Specifically, the initiative appears to show that the U.S. government is turning to the Dark Web for information about such cyberattacks. "Commensurate with the seriousness with which we view these cyber threats, the Rewards for Justice program has set up a Dark Web (Tor-based) tips-reporting channel to protect the safety and security of potential sources."

Notable in Thursday's announcement: "Reward payments may include payments in cryptocurrency."

About Author

MK Manoylov is a reporter for The Block covering NFTs, blockchain-based gaming and cybercrime. MK holds a graduate degree from New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP).