Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines raised concerns with the FBI director over the recent series of cyber threats and hacking that occurred in the Flathead Valley.
The FBI and local authorities continue to investigate an overseas hacking organization calling itself the Dark Overlord that sent threatening electronic messages to schools and families and also stole private information from the Columbia Falls school district server. The threats prompted more than 30 schools to close for three days and school-related activities to be canceled for five days.
Montana’s Republican senator brought up the threats in Washington, D.C., and asked FBI Director Chris Wray what the agency was doing to bring the criminals to justice.
Wray acknowledged the Montana situation and agreed that “cyber terrorism” is an emerging threat for the entire nation.
Here is the entire conversation:
Daines: “Director Wray, cyber-terrorism is an emerging threat that has become all too real in Montana. Two weeks ago, the Columbia Falls School district received cyber-threats promising harm and demanding ransom. This forced the closure of more than thirty schools for three days and affecting over fifteen thousand Montana children. This is unprecedented, we have not seen that before. The culprit has been identified as “The Dark Overlord” an overseas criminal organization. Mr. Wray, are you aware of these cyber-threats and is the FBI investigating?
Wray: “Yes Senator, we are actively involved in the matter that you’re referring to in Montana. I want to be careful not to discuss a ongoing investigation, but I will tell you that I could not agree more that this concept of ransomware, cyber terrorism, the various variants of it that are hitting and I think the example in your state illustrates that it’s everywhere now. Its no longer just ransomware to you know, a big Fortune 500 company. It’s hospitals, it’s its schools in your case – so it’s a threat that is growing. There’s lot we have a lot of matters ongoing related to in some cases we’ve indicted ransomware authors in other cases – we’ve what’s called sinkholed them which is redirect them into essentially into the hands of law enforcement, but make no mistake it is a is a very serious threat and it’s growing.”
Daines: “So I understand it’s an active investigation and you’re limited in finding details however looking back at the big picture, what is the F.B.I. doing to attribute these cyber crimes and help bring these criminals to justice?”
Wray: “There’s a of variety of technological things we can do. We are also working with partners to try to exchange information to help identify telltale signs that may help us link back to particular organizations. I think one of things we’re seeing more and more in this area as much as any other is how this stuff transcends boundaries, and so some of the same organizations are targeting victims in other countries as well. We’re really working more and more with our partners to try to see if we can have their two plus our two to get more than four, to get five and six and so that we can really deal with these otherwise very elusive foes.”