Russian telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor blocked access to the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice website on Friday, alongside the sites for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The restrictions were first reported by the Russian newspaper Kommersant. Interfax later quoted Roskomnadzor as explaining that the blocks were put in place because the websites were deemed to be “spreading fakes about the Russian military and discrediting them.”
“Roskomnadzor restricted access to a number of resources belonging to state structures of hostile countries for distributing materials aimed at destabilizing the social and political situation in the Russian Federation. These resources revealed materials containing unreliable socially significant information, as well as discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation,” the official statement explained.
The Rewards for Justice Program offers to pay individuals who share information “that helps protect U.S. national security,” and has for some time listed several Russian military intelligence officers among its targets. It recently celebrated the takedown against the Hive ransomware group by tweeting it was prepared to pay up to $10 million for information about it and similar organizations.
It is not known what role, if any, the program played in the FBI’s efforts to infiltrate Hive, whose members are known to communicate in Russian. FBI director Christopher Wray described the group’s takedown on Thursday as a technically sophisticated operation providing law enforcement with “clandestine, persistent access” to the control panel used by Hive operators.
The Rewards for Justice Program website has for some time said it is seeking information on several Russian nationals who are allegedly officers of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU), and have been charged with conducting cyberattacks against U.S. infrastructure.
In particular it is seeking information about members of the GRU’s Unit 74455 which has been accused of developing the NotPetya malware “used by the Russian government on June 27, 2017 to infect computer systems of critical infrastructure facilities worldwide.”
The program is also offering up to $10 million for information regarding the Conti ransomware group, described as linked to the Russian government, alongside a number of non-Russian actors including those affiliated with terror groups.
Roskomnadzor maintains a service where users can check if specific sites are being blocked, or just particular pages on those websites. When queried, this registry states that the entire websites for “cia.gov,” “fbi.gov” and “rewardsforjustice.net” are being blocked, and not just the pages related to Russian nationals.
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