Ransomware is now prioritized by the Justice Division

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The Justice Department has set up a task force to centrally track and coordinate all federal cases related to ransomware or related types of cybercrime such as botnets, money laundering, and bulletproof hosting.

“To ensure that we can make the necessary links between national and global cases and investigations … we need to improve and centralize our internal tracking of investigations and prosecutions of ransomware groups, as well as the infrastructure and networks that enable threats to continue” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told US lawyers across the country on Thursday. She published the instruction in a memo first reported by Reuters. Investigators in field offices across the country are expected to share information as well.

The new policy applies not only to cases or investigations related to ransomware, but also to a variety of related scourges, including:

  • Counteract antivirus services
  • Unauthorized online forums or marketplaces
  • Cryptocurrency exchanges
  • Bulletproof hosting services
  • Botnets
  • Online money laundering services

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All ransomware all the time

The tightening comes as two recent ransomware attacks – first on the Colonial Pipeline in May and three weeks later on meat producer JBS – exposed the fragility of the country’s critical supply chains. By using an ad hoc group to centralize case prosecution, Justice Department officials hope the move will make the investigations and cases it conducts focused and consistent.

At least two new ransomware infections surfaced on Thursday. The first hit the Cox Media Group and, according to The Record, left the media company unable to offer live streaming to TV stations and internal networks. The second hit UF Health Central Florida, which operates two hospitals. A UF Health spokesperson said access to email and most other system platforms had been suspended. Employees in all hospitals and medical practices now use pen and paper to document and order care.

Monaco’s Memo instructs attorneys to notify senior Justice Department officials when they open a ransomware case or when there are significant developments. The memo comes as ransomware has become a regular topic of discussion at press conferences at the White House, and is one of the concerns Biden plans to raise at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled for later this month.

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