US Government Offers $10 Million Bounty for Cyberattacks, Enticing with Crypto Payments

July 20, 2021, 9:00 AM AEST - 2 months ago

Following the infamous Colonial Pipeline attack earlier this year and a slew of copycat ransomware attacks, the US government has gone on the offensive by announcing a bounty program to counteract the ongoing risk of cybercrime.

Reward for Attacks on “Critical Infrastructure”

In a statement, the US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program noted it was offering a reward of up to “US$10 million for information leading to the identification or location of any person who, while acting at the direction or under the control of a foreign government, participates in malicious cyber activities against US critical infrastructure”.

Cars queue to refuel following the “Colonial Pipeline” cyberattack which crippled the US’ biggest fuel pipeline based in Washington, DC, May 15, 2021. Source: Daily Sabah

The RFJ statement went further, saying:

Commensurate with the seriousness with which we view these cyber threats, the Rewards for Justice program has set up a Dark Web (Tor-based) tips-reporting channel to protect the safety and security of potential sources.

Office of the Spokesperson Source: US Department of State

Bounty May be Paid in Crypto – Bitcoin or Privacy Coins?

Recognising that potential whistleblowers may wish to be paid in crypto, the statement noted that:

The Reward For Justice program also is working with interagency partners to enable the rapid processing of information as well as the possible relocation of, and payment of, rewards to sources. Reward payments may include payments in cryptocurrency.

Office of the Spokesperson Source: US Department of State

The official statement did not specifically disclose which cryptos would be accepted as a means of bounty payment.

However, given the nature of cybercrime and the fact that the RFJ has set up a Tor-based reporting channel, it is likely that potential whistleblowers will elect to remain anonymous. Accordingly, they are likely to prefer privacy coins such as Monero or Zcash over open-source networks such as Bitcoin.

Cyberattacks have not been limited to the US. Last year, Australian television networks were impacted by various cyber attacks and, most recently, this month thousands of retailers were affected by a supply-chain ransomware attack.

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