The US Department of Justice has shut down what it claims to be one of the most prolific ransomware operations on the planet.
The Justice Department said that its Southern Florida District Office was leading the charge against operators of the ransomware family that is said to have compromised thousands of victims.
Police used a purpose-built decryption tool to help victims of the malware recover their data without the need to pay the attackers ransom demands and provide cash for cybercrime operations.
“In disrupting the BlackCat ransomware group, the Justice Department has once again hacked the hackers,” said deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco.
"With a decryption tool provided by the FBI to hundreds of ransomware victims worldwide, businesses and schools were able to reopen, and health care and emergency services were able to come back online."
Like most modern ransomware operations, Blackcat operates under a service model; the ransomware authors sell off a license to third-party hackers who then do the dirty work of infiltrating networks and running the ransomware code.
"Before encrypting the victim system, the affiliate will exfiltrate or steal sensitive data," the DOJ said.
"The affiliate then seeks a ransom in exchange for decrypting the victim’s system and not publishing the stolen data. Blackcat actors attempt to target the most sensitive data in a victim’s system to increase the pressure to pay."
Officials with the DOJ passed credit on to law enforcement in the UK, Spain, Germany, Austria, Australia, and Europol.
According to officials, the crackdown on the Blackcat group (aka ALPHV and Noberus) has lead to some 500 companies being able to regain access to systems that had been locked by ransomware.
"The FBI developed a decryption tool that allowed FBI field offices across the country and law enforcement partners around the world to offer over 500 affected victims the capability to restore their systems," the DOJ said.
"To date, the FBI has worked with dozens of victims in the United States and internationally to implement this solution, saving multiple victims from ransom demands totaling approximately $68m."