State Department Rewarding Cyber Informants with Crypto

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  • The U.S. State Department is offering up to $10 million in rewards to cybercrime informants
  • The payments can be made in cryptocurrencies as well as U.S. dollars
  • Ransomware attacks recently gained the same priority as physical terrorist attacks

The U.S. State Department is offering informants up to $10 million in rewards if they submit a tip that leads to the identification or location of a state-backed hacker trying to attack U.S. systems and infrastructure. The new program, which stems from the long running terrorism informant reward program, is being used to try and halt the spate of ransomware attacks that has hit both private and public U.S. institutions in recent years. The reward was made public at the Black Hat cyber conference in Las Vegas last week and marks an interesting shift in attitude around cryptocurrencies from the State Department.

Ransomware Attacks Led to Parity With Terrorism

Ransomware attacks have become the scourge of the U.S homeland security forces in recent years, particularly this year where several high-profile hacks have taken place – most notably concerning Colonial Pipeline and the JBS meat company. This led to U.S. president Joe Biden announcing that ransomware attacks were to be given the same priority as terrorist attacks, opening up new levels of financial and logistical means to tackle them.

The new offer announced at Black Hat is a direct result of this, echoing the rewards on offer for those who inform on acts of physical terrorism. The State Department hopes that the new program will encourage informants to come forward and ward off a potential increase in attacks on critical systems like water, power, and transportation.

State Department Sets Moral Quandary Over Cryptocurrencies

The fact that payments can be made in cryptocurrency represents an interesting shift in thinking from the State Department, with cryptocurrencies typically seen as conduits of the crimes themselves and offers an interesting moral question – can cryptocurrencies really be that bad if the U.S. State Department is paying informants in them?