FBI, other law enforcement agencies disrupt prolific ransomware group LockBit | #ransomware | #cybercrime

LONDON (AP) — A website run by a Lockbit, a prolific ransomware syndicate behind cyberattacks around the world, was taken over by law enforcement agencies on Tuesday.

The front page of LockBit’s site was replaced with the words “this site is now under control of law enforcement,” alongside the flags of the U.K., the U.S. and several other nations.

The message said the website was under the control of the U.K.’s National Crime Agency “working in close cooperation with the FBI and the international law enforcement task force, Operation Cronos.”

It says it is an “ongoing and developing operation” that also involves agencies from Germany, France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others, including Europol.

LockBit, which has been operating since 2019, has been the most prolific ransomware syndicate two years running. The group accounted for 23% of the nearly 4,000 attacks globally last year in which ransomware gangs posted data stolen from victims to extort payment, according to the cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks.

The group provides ransomware as a service to so-called affiliates, who infect victim networks with thecomputer-crippling malware and negotiate ransoms.

Last June, U.S. federal agencies released an advisory that attributed about 1,700 ransomware attacks in the United States since 2020 to LockBit and said victims included “municipal governments, county governments, public higher education and K-12 schools, and emergency services.”

Ransomware is the costliest and most disruptive form of cybercrime, crippling local governments, court systems, hospitals and schools as well as businesses. It is difficult to combat as most gangs are based in former Soviet states and out of reach of Western justice. Law enforcement agencies have scored some recent successes against ransomware gangs, most notably the FBI’s operation against the Hive syndicate. But the criminals regroup and rebrand.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre has previously warned that ransomware remains one of the biggest cyber threats facing the UK, and urges people and organisations not to pay ransoms if they are targeted.

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