The spokesman declined to specify what action the order had taken. But it is one of the first clear-cut confirmations from Cyber Command since the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in May that the command has targeted criminal gangs holding US corporate computer systems hostage.
New comments from General Paul Nakasone, chief of Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, reported in the New York Times on Sunday, signal that US military computer agents are increasingly willing and not to hack criminals only state actors. that pose a threat to US critical infrastructure.
Security agencies across the US government stepped up their hunt for ransomware groups after Hacks brought down Colonial Pipeline, a major US fuel carrier and meat processor, earlier this year. CNN reported in June that, according to sources familiar with the situation, the US government had taken offensive steps in response to ransomware, including compromising and monitoring cybercriminal networks.
Nakasone said last month that the US government had “stepped up” against ransomware operators, including trying to cut off sources of funding for the hackers.
Nakasone repeated this message in an interview with the New York Times over the weekend.
“Before, during, and since then, we’ve taken action and imposed costs on a number of elements of our government,” Nakasone told the newspaper. “It’s an important piece that we should always keep in mind.”
The U.S. government’s counter-offensive against ransomware groups, many of which are based in Eastern Europe and Russia, also included indicting alleged blackmailers and sanctioning a cryptocurrency exchange accused of laundering money for the hackers.
The White House has tried to pressure the Russian government to crack down on cyber criminals who operate from Russian soil. Whether that happens remains to be seen – Moscow has often turned a blind eye to hackers who do not target Russian organizations, analysts say.
President Joe Biden will video call Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. The two men will discuss cybersecurity six months after Biden admonished Putin at a meeting in Geneva to take action against hackers, according to the White House.