United States authorities have hit a major malware operator, with the help of leading blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis.
Wednesday, the Ministry of Justice announced the seizure of $ 454,530.19 worth of cryptocurrency by NetWalker, a ransomware operator the Federal Bureau of Investigation claims targeting hospitals worldwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Piggybacking on the DoJ’s announcement was Chainalysis, who took the opportunity advertise the company’s involvement in the discovery of NetWalker hardware in Bulgaria and with Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins. The DoJ arrested Vachon-Desjardins, a Canadian citizen who claims to be an affiliate of the NetWalker network and who has made $ 27.6 million from his malware.
The DoJ has yet to file a criminal complaint against one of those involved with NetWalker, presumably because, if the allegations are true, there are tens of millions of dollars to be seized. Chainalysis noted that NetWalker’s business model of ransomware-as-a-service is particularly difficult to investigate because:
Attackers known as affiliates ‘hire’ a particular ransomware strain from its creators or administrators, who in return get some of the money from each successful attack that affiliates carry out. RaaS has led to more attacks, making it even more difficult to quantify the full financial impact. “
The FBI initially marked NetWalker as a threat to hospitals in July 2020. At the time, the agency said it first spotted the ransomware in March 2020, when COVID-19 lockdowns had occurred around the world.
Ransomware has been on the rise over the past year as remote working has opened up new vulnerabilities in corporate networks or, in this case, people’s willingness to click on questionable links in emails that reveal possible information about COVID-19. conditions.
Importance of law enforcement in ransomware has increased accordingly. Among other research challenges, the increase in ransomware detection has been lucrative for companies such as Chainalysis, which is a influx of government contracts.