News Tech and Science

UK law enforcement appears to take over hacker group website

UK law enforcement website cyber attacks
Source: Pixabay

A website selling services that allow people to organise cyber attacks and hold data until a ransom is paid appears to have been taken over by UK law enforcement.

A message appeared on the site of ransomware specialist LockBit on Monday evening stating that it was “now under control of law enforcement”.

“This site is now under the control of The National Crime Agency of the UK, working in close cooperation with the FBI and the international law enforcement task force, ‘Operation Cronos’,” it reads.

In January 2023, US law enforcers shut down the Hive ransomware operation which had extorted some $100 million from more than 1,500 victims worldwide.

Following the action taken against Hive, Lockbit has been seen as the biggest current threat.

It attacked Britain’s Royal Mail in early January 2023, and a Canadian children’s hospital in December of the same year.

In November 2023, the US Justice Department said LockBit had reaped tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from 1,000 victims.

Hive and Lockbit are part of what cybersecurity experts call a “ransomware as a service” style, or RaaS — a business that leases its software and methods to others to use in extorting money.

Ariel Ropek, director of cyber threat intelligence at cybersecurity firm Avertium, told AFP last year this structure makes it possible for criminals with minimal computer fluency to get into the ransomware game by paying others for their expertise.

On the so-called dark web, providers of ransomware services and support pitch their products openly.

At one end are the initial access brokers, who specialise in breaking into corporate or institutional computer systems.

They then sell that access to the hacker, or ransomware operator.

But the operator depends on RaaS developers like Hive or Lockbit, which have the programming skills to create the malware needed to carry out the operation and avoid counter-security measures.

Typically, their programmes — once inserted by the ransomware operator into the target’s IT systems — are manipulated to freeze, via encryption, the target’s files and data.

RaaS developers offer a full service to the operators, for a large share of the ransom paid out, according to Ropek.

When the ransomware is planted and activated, the target receives a message telling them how much to pay to get their data unencrypted.

That ransom can run from thousands to millions of dollars, usually depending on the financial strength of the target.



About the author


Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

Daily Newsletter