May 28, 2022

A former Canadian government official has been extradited to the United States for conducting dozens of ransomware attacks, with more than $28 million in bitcoin seized in connection with the case.

Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, who worked as an information technology consultant for public works and government services in Canada, according to his LinkedIn profile, was extradited to the US on Wednesday, where he faced multiple charges for his alleged involvement with the Netwalker extortion group. charges will be brought. The US Department of Justice announced this this week.

Netwalker, also known as “mailto”, is a massive ransomware-as-a-service (RAAS) operation in which partners deploy ransomware in exchange for a portion of a ransom. The group first appeared in 2019 and have since been associated with several high-profile attacks. In June 2020, the group attacked UC San Francisco, which paid a ransom of over $1 million. Three months later, Netwalker blocked cyberbullying startup Cygilent.

Operation Ras also targeted the Argentine Immigration Service, Pakistan’s largest private electricity company, and, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, several hospitals and law enforcement agencies. Ransomware attacks involving Netwalker raised $46 million in ransomware between August 2019 and January 2021, according to cryptocurrency analysis firm Chainalysis.

In January 2021, Canadian police arrested Vashon-Desjardins as part of an international law enforcement campaign against the NetWalker ransomware group. During a search of his home in Quebec, agents found 719 bitcoins worth about $28.1 million at the time of writing and $790,000 in Canadian currency. U.S. and Belgian authorities have also blocked a dark website used by Netwalker to publish data stolen from victims.

Then Vashon-Desjardins was sentenced by a Canadian court to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of theft of computer data, extortion, payment of a ransom for cryptocurrency and participation in the activities of a criminal organization. The sentence was brought down.

Now that Vashon-Desjardins is in the US, he faces new charges of computer fraud and conspiracy to commit telephony, intentionally causing damage to a protected computer, and filing a claim for damage to a protected computer.

If found guilty, he could face a fine of more than $27 million for his involvement in the Netwalker extortion gang.

“As evidenced by the withdrawal of cryptocurrencies by our Canadian partners, we will use all legal means available to continue to seize and seize alleged ransomware proceeds, whether domestically or abroad,” the assistant director said. Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. Prosecution and confiscation of ransoms in cryptocurrencies will not stop ransomware attackers from trying to evade law enforcement by hindering the use of virtual currencies. ,

The news of Vashon-Desjardin’s extradition came just days after a member of the Reville extortion group was arrested and extradited to Texas, where he was charged with his alleged involvement in the Kasia hack.

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