The Justice Department announced that it had disrupted the activities of a North Korean state-sponsored group deploying ransomware known as Maui.
Thanks to rapid reporting and cooperation from a victim, the Justice Department not only recovered their ransom payment as well as a ransom paid by previously unknown victims but was also able to identify a previously unidentified ransomware strain.
In May 2021, North Korean hackers used the Maui ransomware strain to encrypt the files and servers of a medical center in the District of Kansas. After more than a week of being unable to access encrypted servers, the Kansas hospital paid approximately $100,000 in Bitcoin to regain the use of their computers and equipment. Because the Kansas medical center notified the FBI and cooperated with law enforcement, the FBI was able to identify the never-before-seen North Korean ransomware and trace the cryptocurrency to China-based money launderers.
In April 2022, the FBI observed an approximately $120,000 Bitcoin payment into one of the seized cryptocurrency accounts identified, thanks to the cooperation of the Kansas hospital. The FBI’s investigation confirmed that a medical provider in Colorado had just paid a ransom after being hacked by actors using the same Maui ransomware strain. In May 2022, the FBI seized the contents of two cryptocurrency accounts that had received funds from the Kansas and Colorado health care providers. The District of Kansas then began proceedings to forfeit the hackers’ funds and return the stolen money to the victims.
“Reporting cyber incidents to law enforcement and cooperating with investigations not only protects the United States, it is also good business,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The reimbursement to these victims of the ransom shows why it pays to work with law enforcement.”
Based on information obtained during the Department’s investigation, the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Department of the Treasury issued a joint cybersecurity advisory regarding the North Korean threat to U.S. health care and public health sector organizations, which included indicators of compromise and mitigation advice.