Search ForexCrunch
  • The Justice Department is focused on helping victims of ransomware attacks like NetWalker.
  • A Canadian national was arrested and charged in Florida concerning the NetWalker cyberattacks.
  • Schools, hospitals, and universities are some of the victims of the NetWalker ransomware attacks.

The United States Department of Justice (DoJ), in collaboration with the Bulgarian General Directorate Combating Organized Crimes, revealed a carefully organized mission aimed at disrupting the complex form of ransomware referred to as NetWalker. This decision comes after companies, hospitals, school districts, universities, among others, fell victim to the ransomware.

The NetWalker ransomware targets healthcare facilities amid COVID-19

The numerous attacks specifically targeting healthcare organizations during the ongoing battle against COVID-19. The aim of the two authorities’ global action is “striking back against the growing threat of ransomware by not only bringing criminal charges against the responsible actors but also disrupting online criminal infrastructure.”

The Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the DoJ’s Criminal Division advised victims to reach out as soon as possible to relevant authorities because acting fast can lead to the recovery of the lost funds.

Canadian national charged concerning the NetWalker ransomware

Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins was arrested and charged in relation to the ransomware for illegally obtaining $27.6 million. NetWalker is a dark web group of cybercriminals keen on attacking innocent organizations and demanding payment. It functions on “ransomware-as-a-service model,” bringing together “developers” and other “affiliates.”

The DoJ recovered about $455 million in cryptocurrency from ransom payments made in several attacks. The Bulgarian authorities were able to stop the “dark web” source that NetWalker utilized to pass messages to the victims.

Phishing emails were employed to infiltrate the victims’ computer networks where users are prompted to send log-in information. In other instances, users downloaded the malware. On taking control of the victims’ networks, NetWalker criminals start demanding for payment to allow access.

The recovered $455 million is just the tip of the iceberg. According to a Vancouver Island-based Threat Analyst, Brett Callow, NetWalker extorted around $1.4 million in only one case in 2020. Special Agent in Charge Michael F. McPherson of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office said about the action by the Justice Department:

This case illustrates the FBI’s capabilities and global partnerships in tracking ransomware attackers, unmasking them, and holding them accountable for their alleged criminal actions.

If you are a ransomware victim, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip to tips.fbi.gov. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Ransomware attacks in 2020

Ransomware attacks in 2020

Data by Chainalysis reveals that ransomware attacks in 2020 shot up by 311%. Approximately $350 in cryptocurrency million was lost to the cyberattacks. The research and analysis platform said that this number would be significantly higher if crimes were reported widely and promptly.