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UK leads disruption of Lockbit cyber-criminal gang

The United Kingdom has orchestrated a ground-breaking operation to dismantle what is believed to be the largest criminal ransomware syndicate globally.

Executing the mission, the National Crime Agency (NCA) successfully penetrated the systems of Lockbit, a notorious organization suspected to be headquartered in Russia. Renowned for its extensive operations, Lockbit has earned the dubious distinction of being the most prolific ransomware group globally, providing services to a multitude of other criminal entities.

In a significant turn of events on Monday evening, a message surfaced on Lockbit’s website, unequivocally stating that it was “now under the control of law enforcement.” This operation marks a historic collaboration involving the FBI, Europol, and various other nations, with the UK taking the lead in a concerted effort to combat cybercriminal activities.

Lockbit’s modus operandi involves infiltrating computers of companies and organizations, subsequently locking users out until a ransom is paid. Additionally, they frequently engage in data theft, leveraging the stolen information as a coercive tool.

Originating in 2019, Lockbit swiftly ascended to a position of dominance in the cyber underworld, with estimates suggesting it commands a substantial market share, ranging between 20-25% in the realm of ransomware. This operation is hailed as one of the most significant disruptions in the cybercriminal landscape, showcasing the UK’s proactive stance in combating such threats.

The covert operation has been in progress for an extended period, during which law enforcement meticulously gathered data before transitioning to a more public-facing phase on Monday evening.

Utilizing the expertise of the NCA’s technical specialists, the operation reached a pivotal point when they successfully infiltrated Lockbit’s internal systems, gaining control and extracting a substantial amount of data pertaining to the criminal group’s activities. This trove of information has the potential to offer a unique perspective on the actual scope of the group’s operations, especially considering that many affected companies refrain from acknowledging breaches and occasionally opt to pay ransoms.

As the operation transitioned into a more transparent phase, law enforcement disclosed their successful infiltration. They took charge of the dark web site where Lockbit conducted and publicized its illicit activities, replacing it with the insignias of various law enforcement agencies. Accompanying this visual transformation was a message proclaiming, “The site is under the control of the National Crime Agency of the UK, working in close co-operation with the FBI and the international law enforcement task force, ‘Operation Cronos’.”

The individuals orchestrating the activities of the Lockbit group are thought to be situated in Russia, rendering them, like other analogous groups, beyond the jurisdiction of law enforcement for potential arrest. Consequently, disruption emerges as a pragmatic strategy, representing one of the few viable options to impede their operations while concurrently bolstering cyber-defenses.

Luke Simmonds

Blogger at

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