FBI, DOJ "disrupt" North Korea-backed hackers targeting health sector
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Tuesday that the FBI and Department of Justice recently "disrupted" a ransomware group backed by the North Korean government that targeted U.S. medical facilities.
Why it matters: In one of the group's attacks, Monaco said a Kansas hospital made a $500,000 payment to the cyber group after being hit by ransomware known as “Maui.”
- She said the FBI and Justice Department were able to recover the entire payment and cryptocurrencies used to launder it "several weeks ago" after tracing the payment through the blockchain.
- By tracing the payments, law enforcement officials identified accounts used by China-based money launderers who worked with the North Korean hackers. In those accounts, they found potential ransomware payments made by another medical provider in Colorado and overseas victims.
- The federal agencies also recovered what they believe were ransoms paid by other victims, including the Colorado medical provider.
What they're saying: Monaco disclosed the payment recovery during a speech at the 2022 International Conference on Cyber Security, in which she stressed that organizations should immediately notify the FBI if ransomware groups target them.
- "Today, we have made public the seizure of those ransom payments, and we are returning the stolen funds to the victims," Monaco said. "In sum, a medical center in Kansas did the right thing at a moment of crisis and called the FBI."
- "What flowed from that virtuous decision was: the recovery of their ransom payment; the recovery of ransoms paid by previously unknown victims; the identification of a previously unidentified ransomware strain; all from an investigation that allowed the FBI and its partners to release a cybersecurity advisory to empower network defenders everywhere," she added.
The big picture: The U.S. used similar tactics to recover some of the ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline to the DarkSide cybercrime group last year.
- After the attack on the pipeline and several other major ransomware strikes in 2021, the Biden administration launched a multi-agency task force to help businesses fend off such attacks.