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US military hackers target groups behind ransomware attacks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Thousands of US businesses have been hit recently by a "colossal" ransomware attack, according to a cyber-security firm. (Photo by Getty Images)

Hackers from the US military have targeted the groups that have allegedly conducted ransomware attacks on American companies, according to a report.

A spokesperson for the US military’s hacking unit, known as Cyber Command, on Monday did not specify what the actions would entail, according to CNN.

However, the US military has directly acknowledged that it is targeting entities that attack the computer systems of American businesses, which cost the US billions of dollars since the beginning of the year.

The ransomware attackers use malicious software that encrypts a victim’s files and holds the data hostage until a ransom is paid.

This comes amid a string of cyberattacks that have targeted systems operated by both the US federal government and private companies.

A ransomware attack on JBS USA, the largest supplier of beef in the nation, forced all its American facilities to shut down for a day.

Colonial Pipeline, which supplies around 45 percent of the East Coast's fuel supply, shut down its operations in May after a ransomware attack that Washington claimed was carried out by a Russian-based group. The company chose to pay the hackers the equivalent of $4.4 million in Bitcoin to receive keys to decrypt their systems.

And, a hack of information technology company SolarWinds allegedly gave access to thousands of companies and government offices that used its products.

The Biden administration has accused Russia of harboring hackers who it said were behind the recent attacks.

Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, who leads the Cyber Command and serves as the director of the National Security Agency, said that the government previously considered ransomware attacks as the responsibility of law enforcement.

Nakasone added that attacks like the one at Colonial Pipeline, however, showed that the criminal groups leading the attacks are "impacting our critical infrastructure.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray has compared the ransomware hacks on high-profile American projects like Colonial Pipeline, JBS USA and SolarWinds to September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which about 3,000 Americans lost their lives.

FBI chief Wray described the escalating attacks as a growing national security threat to America.



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