The NetWalker ransomware network has been taken down as part of a coordinated international law enforcement campaign. The ransomware has previously been used to target schools, hospitals, private sector firms, and government agencies.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that a Canadian national had been charged in connection with previous NetWalker attacks, approximately $454,530 in cryptocurrency from ransom payments had been seized, and the dark web resource used to communicate with NetWalker victims had been disabled.
“We are striking back against the growing threat of ransomware by not only bringing criminal charges against the responsible actors, but also disrupting criminal online infrastructure and, wherever possible, recovering ransom payments extorted from victims,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Ransomware victims should know that coming forward to law enforcement as soon as possible after an attack can lead to significant results like those achieved in today’s multi-faceted operation.”
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An international operation
NetWalker was one of many ransomware strains that operated using the ransomware-as-a-service model, whereby developers would build the malware before supplying it to affiliates to deploy against high-value victims. Any ransom acquired is then split between the developers and affiliates.
The NetWalker ransomware strain has been in circulation since at least August 2019 and has facilitated more than $46 million of ransom transfers in that time. If additional victims come forward about NetWalker attacks, it is possible that more criminal breakthroughs may be achieved.
The action by the DOJ, assisted by the Bulgarian National Investigation Service, is not the first time that international law enforcement teams have worked together to bring down illegal online activity. Earlier this month, Europol worked on an international police operation to take down the world’s largest dark web marketplace.
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Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services. After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.