Ex-Canadian official pleads guilty to NetWalker ransomware attacks

Ex-Canadian official pleads guilty to NetWalker ransomware attacks

NetWalker ransomware syndicate member: A former Canadian government employee pleaded guilty in the US this week to charges relating to his involvement with the syndicate.

When Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins was extradited to the U.S. on March 10, 2022, he faces charges of conspiracy to commit computer and wire fraud, intentional damage to a protected system, as well as transmitting a demand in relation to a protected system being damaged.

Initially, the 34-year-old IT consultant from Gatineau, Quebec, was taken into custody in January 2021 after a joint law enforcement operation to dismantle the dark web infrastructure used by the NetWalker ransomware cybercrime group to publish data stolen from its victims. Its operations were also halted as a result of the takedown.

Seventy-one bitcoin, worth an estimated $28.1 million at the time, were seized from Vachon-home Desjardins's in Canada after a search warrant was executed.

The Ontario Court of Justice sentenced him to six years and eight months in prison in February 2022 after he pleaded guilty to five criminal charges prior to his extradition to the United States.

NetWalker affiliates' ransom messages were improved by the defendant, and he convinced the creator of NetWalker to use "mixing services" to hide Bitcoin ransom payments, the court said. "Excellent at what he did," the court said. "Good-looking, presentable, and instantly likable" were some of the words used to describe him in the ruling.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, attacks by the NetWalker gang are believed to have targeted dozens of people around the world, with a particular focus on the healthcare industry.

Before encryption, it is known to use the lucrative double extortion tactic of holding the data hostage in exchange for cryptocurrency or risking the information being published online.

In his capacity as one of the 100 NetWalker affiliates, Vachon-Desjardins is linked to at least 91 attacks since April 2020, as well as working for other RaaS groups like Sodinokibi (REvil), Suncrypt, and Ragnarlocker.

Vachon-Desjardins has been identified as "one of the most prolific NetWalker ransomware affiliates" and is alleged to have extorted about 1,864 bitcoin from the NetWalker crew, according to court documents filed in a Florida district court.

It's been claimed that his involvement in the criminal operation spanned the gamut from conducting research on his victims and controlling the servers that housed tools for eavesdropping and data theft to operating accounts that posted stolen information on a data leak site and receiving payouts after a successful hacking campaign was carried out.

Defendant has agreed to forfeit all of his crypto wallet's digital assets, as well as a slew of other electronic devices, such as gaming consoles and external hard drives as part of a plea agreement.


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