The websites of the ransomware ring linked to Russia, which was blamed for carrying out hacking attacks targeting hundreds of companies around the world, have disappeared.
Observers say a payment website and blog run by the “Revell” gang disappeared and were suddenly out of business on Tuesday.
The reason for this is still unknown, but it has sparked speculation that the gang may have been deliberately targeted by the authorities.
This comes amid growing pressure between the United States and Russia over cybercrime.
US President Joe Biden said he raised the issue with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during a phone call on Friday, after the issue was also discussed during their summit in Geneva last month.
“I made it clear to him … and we expect them to act” on the information, Biden added at a news conference, and hinted that the United States might take direct digital retaliation against the servers used in the hacking operations.
The timing of the site’s disappearance on Tuesday sparked speculation that US or Russian officials may have taken action against the “Revell” gang, although officials have so far declined to comment, and Internet experts say sudden blockages by gangs are not necessarily uncommon.
This development comes after a series of high-level ransomware attacks targeting major US companies this year.
The FBI accused the “Revell” gang, also known as “Sudinokibi”, of being behind a ransomware attack last month on the world’s largest meat processing company, JBS.
Last week, the gang demanded a huge ransom of bitcoin in an attack targeting IT company Cassia and hundreds of other companies around the world.
BBC’s Joe Teddy analysis:
The Revell gang is one of the most prevalent and feared ransomware gangs of all, and if that’s really the end, it’s very important.
Rumors and speculation are spreading widely in order to find out who is behind this sudden blocking, but a hacker claiming to be linked to the gang gave me some ideas. I haven’t confirmed his identity yet, but other researchers say his claims are very plausible.
The man claims that “US FSBs targeted” elements of their websites, so they withdrew their operations, and also added that there is pressure from the Kremlin that “Russia is fed up with the United States, and other countries are complaining.”
If this scenario proves accurate, it shows a radical shift in the policy of Russia, which has so far been happy to sit back and let gangs like the Revell operate without fear of intervention.
However, another comment also hints at a broader picture, as the man says he has no plans to retire and is already planning another unknown project.
He warned that “the departure of one of them enhances the appearance of many.”