Europol Arrests Ransomware Gang With $1.3 Million Cryptocurrency Asset

Joint taskforce of Interpol Europol and FBI officials arrests 2 man ransomware gang with 1.3 million cryptocurrency assets
Joint taskforce of Interpol Europol and FBI officials arrests 2 man ransomware gang with 1.3 million cryptocurrency assets

A joint team of Europol, Interpol, and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has resulted in the arrest of two unidentified ransomware operators. Both operators are allegedly responsible for conducting several ransomware attacks in Europe and receiving up to $81million in ransom. Additionally, $1.3 million in cryptocurrency assets was also recovered.

According to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), they have been arrested in Ukraine. The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) explained that the arrests happened on Sept. 28.

Europol stated, “The organized crime group is suspected of having committed a string of targeted ransomware attacks against very large industrial groups in Europe and North America from April 2020 onwards.” The suspects have been known to use malware attacks as a cover to steal sensitive data from these companies, and then encrypt the files. Once encrypted, the companies will be asked to pay a ransom payment for the decryption key or risk everything being dumped on the dark web.

Describing the mode of operation, Europol stated, “The virus software gets into the equipment of corporations by hacking the program for remote work of the user with the computer (server) and also through spam-mailing on corporate e-mail boxes of malicious content.” The damage caused is estimated to reach $150M.

In its statement, the Ukrainian cyber police identified one of the suspects as a 25-year-old hacker who has attacked over 100 foreign companies in North America and Europe across different sectors.

The joint task force searched seven properties and seized $375,000 in cash and two luxury vehicles worth over 217,000 euros. The team was also able to freeze crypto assets of about $1.3 million.

Joint Law Enforcement Actions Can Help Tackle Rising Ransomware Attacks

According to Europol, it was necessary to coordinate with all involved countries and establish a common strategy to nab the suspects. This has been the effective pattern in 2021 even as countries brace up against the rising spate of attacks recently.

January saw Europol and Eurojust take down the infrastructure of the infamous botnet Emotet and detain two Ukrainian citizens as suspects. Likewise in February, France’s Central Directorate of the Judicial Police, Ukrainian law enforcement, and Europol, traced ransoms paid in Bitcoin to Ukrainian suspects. Another joint operation by Ukraine, the United States, and South Korea also led to the arrest of six suspected Clop ransomware gang members in June.

The transparency and secrecy associated with cryptocurrencies have made it easy for ransomware gangs looking to take advantage of breaches in the security infrastructure of corporations to carry out their enterprise. Only a joint law enforcement team operating across countries will be able to adequately and efficiently act to stop or reduce such ransomware attacks.