RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Justice Department is fighting back against hackers, the kind who use ransomware to steal data and then hold that data hostage for a payout. Authorities have indicted two international cybercriminals from Russia and Ukraine. NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson reports.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Four months after hackers targeted the software company Kaseya and its clients, the Justice Department is striking back. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the action in a press conference in Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
MERRICK GARLAND: The Justice Department is sparing no resource to identify and bring to justice anyone anywhere who targets the United States with a ransomware attack.
JOHNSON: One hacker, a Russian national, remains at large, but the other, a Ukrainian, recently made the bad decision to travel to Poland, where he was taken into custody. American law enforcement wants to extradite him to the U.S. to face justice.
LISA MONACO: Our message is that if you come for us, we are going to come for you.
JOHNSON: That's deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco. Monaco established a task force to fight the threat from organized criminal gangs earlier this year.
MONACO: We once again followed the money. We went after the cryptocurrency that was paid in ransom by the victims here, and we went and we traced it and we seized it. And now we'll be able to return that money to the victims. So we're using every tool at our disposal. We're using all of our authorities, and we're doing it at a scale and a speed that we haven't done before.
JOHNSON: DOJ says it recovered more than $6 million in this case that will go back to the victims. The targets of the ransomware schemes include private businesses, schools, hospitals and 911 call centers. So Monaco says these cases can be deadly serious.
MONACO: These attacks have hit hospitals. They have hit first responders. They have hit industries and sectors of our society where real lives are at stake. And so that's what we mean when we're talking about life and death.
JOHNSON: The Biden administration is taking a coordinated approach to ransomware. The Treasury Department announced sanctions, and the State Department is offering a $10 million reward for information that leads to the capture of the leaders of the criminal gang known as REvil. But leaders of the Justice Department say they need Congress and their broader community to help, too. They're asking for a new law that would create a standard for reporting cyber incidents to federal authorities. And they want the victims to notify them quickly so they can recover lost money and prevent anyone else from being victimized.
Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF KODOMO'S "CONCEPT 11")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.