Russia’s top domestic intelligence agency says REvil – the Russia-based ransomware gang tied to the Colonial Pipeline attack – has “ceased to exist” after the agency arrested 14 alleged members of the criminal organization last week.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) raided 25 residences tied to REvil, seizing approximately $6.8 million in various currencies – including cryptocurrencies. The FSB also seized computer equipment, crypto wallets “that were used to perpetrate crimes” and 20 luxury cars, according to a Jan. 14 press release.
The FSB said the arrests were carried out at the request of “US authorities.”
U.S. President Joe Biden has been pressing Russian authorities to act against REvil and other Russian cyber criminals since last summer, when REvil pocketed $70 million in bitcoin payments after hacking Miami-based software provider Kaseya. Russia has been slow to take action. Last week’s arrests are the first time – at least publicly – that Russian authorities have acted against one of the many ransomware groups based in Russia.
It is also the first time in years that U.S. and Russian intelligence agencies teamed up on a cyber crime operation. A few observers of U.S.-Russian relations have highlighted that the timing of the arrests coincides with Russia’s escalating efforts to invade Ukraine.
A White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity told reporters last Friday that the U.S. did not consider the arrests to be related to the ongoing events in Ukraine.
Russia’s motives for tackling REvil aside, the arrests are part of an uptick in global collaboration against ransomware gangs. Last year, Romanian, Kuwaiti and South Korean authorities independently arrested suspected members of REvil-affiliated hacking groups.
The momentum has continued into this year.
On Jan. 17, Europol announced that it had seized 15 servers belonging to VPNLab.net, a virtual private network provider that catered to cyber criminals and ransomware gangs, rendering the company’s virtual private network (VPN) services inoperable.