Digital Assets: DOJ Busts NetWalker Ransomware Actors

January 29, 2021 | Digital Assets, Latest News, News
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The DOJ confiscated $454K and shot down a dark web communication tool used to threaten ransomware victims.

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday its successful strike against the notorious NetWalker ransomware and its perpetrators. The coordinated international action, led by the  FBI’s Tampa Field office indicted a Canadian Canadian national, Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, who allegedly obtained $27.6 million as a “Netwalker affiliate.” Additionally, the law enforcement agents seized  $454,530.19 in cryptocurrency from ransom payments. They also disabled a dark web hidden tool that the bad actors used to communicate with NetWalker ransomware victims. (Bitcoin.com)

The long arm of the law – hackers, and cryptos not safe

“This action reflects the resolve of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida to target and disrupt sophisticated, international cybercrime schemes,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida in a statement. “While these individuals believe they operate anonymously in the digital space, we have the skill and tenacity to identify and prosecute these actors to the full extent of the law and seize their criminal proceeds.”

According to news.Bitcoin.com, the authorities used tools from Chainalysis to track and trace the ransom NetWalker transactions.

The hierarchy of a ransomware attack

The DOJ provided interesting details of how the players in a NetWalker attack structure their roles. The DOJ said that typically, a “developer” creates and updates the ransomware. He then passes it over to an “affiliate,” who is responsible for identifying potential ransom victims, and then launching the attack on their systems.

Once the ransomware victim pays up the ransom the developers and the affiliate split the proceeds.

The gang is alleged to have struck 205 victims across 27 different countries. Of these, 203 were located in the U.S.

Chainalysis has traced more than $46 million in NetWalker ransoms since August 2019.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said: “Ransomware victims should know that coming forward to law enforcement as soon as possible after an attack can lead to significant results like those achieved in today’s multi-faceted operation.”

Related Story: University of California San Francisco Pays $1.14M Ransom to Crypto Hackers

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