The U.S. Department of State has announced monetary rewards of up to $10 million for information about individuals holding key positions within the Hive ransomware operation.
It is also giving away an additional $5 million for specifics that could lead to the arrest and/or conviction of any person “conspiring to participate in or attempting to participate in Hive ransomware activity.”
The multi-million-dollar rewards come a little over a year after a coordinated law enforcement effort covertly infiltrated and dismantled the darknet infrastructure associated with the Hive ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) gang. One person with suspected ties to the group was arrested in Paris in December 2023.
Hive, which emerged in mid-2021, targeted more than 1,500 victims in over 80 countries, netting about $100 million in illegal revenues. In November 2023, Bitdefender revealed that a new ransomware group called Hunters International had acquired the source code and infrastructure from Hive to kick-start its own efforts.
There is some evidence to suggest that the threat actors associated with Hunters International are likely based in Nigeria, specifically an individual named Olowo Kehinde, per information gathered by Netenrich security researcher Rakesh Krishnan, although it could also be a fake persona adopted by the actors to cover up their true origins.
Blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, in its 2023 review published last week, estimated that ransomware crews raked in $1.1 billion in extorted cryptocurrency payments from victims last year, compared to $567 million in 2022, all but confirming that ransomware rebounded in 2023 following a relative drop off in 2022.
“2023 marks a major comeback for ransomware, with record-breaking payments and a substantial increase in the scope and complexity of attacks — a significant reversal from the decline observed in 2022,” it said.
The decline in ransomware activity in 2022 has been deemed a statistical aberration, with the downturn attributed to the Russo-Ukrainian war and the disruption of Hive. What’s more, the total number of victims posted on data leak sites in 2023 was 4,496, up from 3,048 in 2021 and 2,670 in 2022.
Palo Alto Networks Unit…