FBI obtained 7,000 LockBit decryption keys, victims should contact the feds to get support

Pierluigi Paganini June 06, 2024

The FBI is informing victims of LockBit ransomware it has obtained over 7,000 LockBit decryption keys that could allow some of them to decrypt their data.

The FBI is inviting victims of LockBit ransomware to come forward because it has obtained over 7,000 LockBit decryption keys that could allow them to recover their encrypted data for free.

“Additionally, from our ongoing disruption of LockBit, we now have over 7,000 decryption keys and can help victims reclaim their data and get back online.” said Bryan Vorndran, the Assistant Director at the FBI Cyber Division, during the 2024 Boston Conference on Cyber Security. “We are reaching out to known LockBit victims and encouraging anyone who suspects they were a victim to visit our Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.” 

In February, a joint law enforcement action code-named Operation Cronos conducted by law enforcement agencies from 11 countries temporarily disrupted the LockBit ransomware operation.

LockBit ransomware

This call to action comes after law enforcement took down LockBit’s infrastructure in February 2024 in an international operation dubbed “Operation Cronos.”

The operation led to the arrest of two members of the ransomware gang in Poland and Ukraine and the seizure of hundreds of crypto wallets used by the group.

The British NCA took control of LockBit’s central administration environment used by the RaaS affiliates to carry out the cyberattacks. The authorities also seized the dark web Tor leak site used by the group.

The NCA seized the Tor leak site and is now used to publish updates on the law enforcement operation and provide support to the victims of the gang.

The NCA also obtained the source code of the LockBit platform and a huge trove of information on the group’s operation, including information on affiliates and supporters.

Law enforcement also had access to data stolen from the victims of the ransomware operation, a circumstance that highlights the fact that even when a ransom is paid, the ransomware gang often fails to delete the stolen information.

“LockBit had a bespoke data exfiltration tool, known as Stealbit, which was used by affiliates to steal victim data. Over the last 12 hours this infrastructure, based in three countries, has been seized by members of the Op Cronos taskforce, and 28 servers belonging to LockBit affiliates have also been taken down.” reads the NCA’s announcement. “The technical infiltration and disruption is only the beginning of a series of actions against LockBit and their affiliates. In wider action coordinated by Europol, two LockBit actors have been arrested this morning in Poland and Ukraine, over 200 cryptocurrency accounts linked to the group have been frozen.”

The NCA and its global partners have secured over 1,000 decryption keys that will allow victims of the gang to recover their files for free. The NCA reached out to victims based in the UK providing support to help them recover encrypted data.

“This NCA-led investigation is a ground-breaking disruption of the world’s most harmful cyber crime group. It shows that no criminal operation, wherever they are, and no matter how advanced, is beyond the reach of the Agency and our partners.” said National Crime Agency Director General, Graeme Biggar.

“Through our close collaboration, we have hacked the hackers; taken control of their infrastructure, seized their source code, and obtained keys that will help victims decrypt their systems.”

The free decryptor for the Lockbit ransomware can be downloaded from the website of the ‘No More Ransom’ initiative. It’s unclear which version of the ransomware is targeted by the decryptor.

The FBI, UK National Crime Agency, and Europol have also unmasked the identity of the admin of the LockBit ransomware operation, aka ‘LockBitSupp’ and ‘putinkrab’ , and issued sanctions against him. It was the first time that the admin of the notorious group was identified by law enforcement.

The man is a Russian national named Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev (31) of Voronezh, Russia.

“The sanctions against Russian national Dmitry Khoroshev (pictured), the administrator and developer of the LockBit ransomware group, are being announced today by the FCDO alongside the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.” reads the press release published by NCA.

The NCA states that Khoroshev will now be subject to a series of asset freezes and travel bans.

“Khoroshev, AKA LockBitSupp, who thrived on anonymity and offered a $10 million reward to anyone who could reveal his identity, will now be subject to a series of asset freezes and travel bans.” continues the NCA.

According to the UK agency, data retrieved from the systems belonging to the ransomware gang revealed that from June 2022 to February 2024, the criminals gave orchestrated over 7,000 attacks. The most targeted countries included the US, UK, France, Germany, and China.

However, despite the law enforcement operation, the LockBit group is still active and targeted tens of organizations since February.

LockBit is a prominent ransomware operation that first emerged in September 2019. In 2022, LockBit was one of the most active ransomware groups, and its prevalence continued into 2023. Since January 2020, affiliates utilizing LockBit have targeted organizations of diverse sizes spanning critical infrastructure sectors such as financial services, food and agriculture, education, energy, government and emergency services, healthcare, manufacturing, and transportation. The LockBit ransomware operation operated under a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) model, recruiting affiliates to carry out ransomware attacks through the utilization of LockBit ransomware tools and infrastructure.

According to a joint report published by US authorities and international peers, the total of U.S. ransoms paid to LockBit is approximately $91M since LockBit activity was first observed in the U.S. on January 5, 2020.

Pierluigi Paganini

Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook and Mastodon

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, ransomware)

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