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US Authorities Seize $28M in Crypto Related to NetWalker Ransomware

A Canadian has been extradited to the United States in connection with his alleged participation in Netwalker ransomware.

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US Department of Justice. Image: Shutterstock

Over $28 million worth of cryptocurrency has been seized in connection with a former Canadian government employee, Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, being extradited to the United States on charges relating to Netwalker ransomware. 

According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), Vachon-Desjardins has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and wire fraud, intentional damage to a protected computer, and transmitting a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer arising from his alleged participation in Netwalker—a sophisticated form of ransomware. 

The indictment, cited by the DoJ, also alleges the United States intends to forfeit over $27 million of the $28 million seized, allegedly traceable to proceeds of the offenses. 

"As exemplified by the seizure of cryptocurrency by our Canadian partners, we will use all legally available avenues to pursue seizure and forfeiture of the alleged proceeds of ransomware, whether located domestically or abroad," Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. said. 

"The department will not cease to pursue and seize cryptocurrency ransoms, thereby thwarting the attempts of ransomware actors to evade law enforcement through the use of virtual currency," he added. 

Cryptocurrency, ransomware, and Netwalker

Netwalker is a complex form of ransomware that has targeted victims from law enforcement agencies, commercial entities, and even the healthcare sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Netwalker hackers were previously identified by law enforcement as the actors behind Argentina's shutdown of international borders in September 2020. The attackers requested $4 million worth of Bitcoin at the time. 

In September 2020, Netwalker hackers demanded almost $8 million worth of Bitcoin for Pakistan's largest power producer to access its own data following a cyber attack. 

Examples like this as well as other ransomware attacks have thrust cryptocurrencies to center stage in the broader ransomware industry. 

Former FBI agent and current Director of Threat Intelligence at Abnormal Security, Crane Hassold, recently told Decrypt that cryptocurrencies had become the "primary factor" driving today's ransomware industry.

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