Investigators seized nearly $28 million worth of cryptocurrency that prosecutors say he procured through attacks on companies, law enforcement, and hospitals.
TAMPA, Fla. — A Quebec man who previously worked for the Canadian government has been extradited to the United States to face charges for a series of ransomware attacks in which prosecutors say he stole more than $28 million in cryptocurrency.
A grand jury has indicted Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, 34, 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 a sophisticated form of ransomware known as NetWalker, according to the Department of Justice.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr.
According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), NetWalker is a type of ransomware that encrypts the data of the infected computer and corresponding servers. Users are then forced to pay a “ransom” of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin in order to decrypt the data.
NetWalker has been used since 2019 to carry out global extortions, but it was widely used to attack healthcare systems in 2020 as COVID-19 flooded hospitals with patients. In one case, a patient in Germany died after a Dusseldorf hospital’s system was disabled, as reported by CISA.
The code of NetWalker was developed by Russian speakers, and the programming prohibits infection among Russian servers. The DOJ did not state whether Vachon-Desjardins had a connection to other Russian hackers.
“This case illustrates effective international law enforcement cooperation directed at identifying cybercriminals, holding them accountable for their alleged criminal actions, and recovering funds allegedly stolen from their victims,” said U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida.
The FBI’s Tampa Field Office is investigating the case and was supported by cooperation from by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, Gatineau Police Service, and National Cybercrime Coordination Unit.
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