The Gatineau computer scientist and drug trafficker arrested Wednesday reportedly carried out at least 91 ransomware attacks, according to a cryptocurrency transaction analysis firm that helped the FBI investigate.
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The New York-based company Chainanalysis has studied Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins’ transactions in bitcoins, the virtual currency favored by hackers to get paid ransoms.
He allegedly received the equivalent of US $ 14 million by defrauding his victims using NetWalker ransomware. With the rise in the value of bitcoin, its nest egg is now worth US $ 27.6 million ($ 35 million).
To cash these funds, Vachon-Desjardins could count on no less than 345 bitcoin addresses, Chainanalysis notes. These addresses are somewhat the equivalent of one-stop accounts for sending or receiving cryptocurrency.
NetWalker is “ransomware-as-a-service”: “affiliates” can hire it out to its developers to defraud victims of their choice.
As an “affiliate”, Vachon-Desjardins pocketed 80% of the sums he was withdrawing, according to Chainanalysis.
The rest went to the ransomware designers, whose identity remains unknown to this day.
The Gatineau hacker may have claimed even more lives using other malware.
“Using our survey software, we can see that Vachon-Desjardins cryptocurrency wallets have received funds associated with other strains, including Sodinokibi and RagnarLocker,” writes Maddie Kennedy, communications director at Chainanalysis, in a email to our Bureau of Investigation.
Registered under a false name, its Facebook page bears the motto “Lift, Travel, Enjoy what life has to offer” (“Levez [des poids], travel, enjoy what life has to offer ”).
The American authorities want to put a new trip to Florida on his agenda, but he may not appreciate it. After his arrest on Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) must request his extradition within 60 days.
A Sunshine State prosecutor accuses him of computer fraud, hacking and extortion against companies in that state.
The lawyer for Vachon-Desjardins was in court Thursday in this case.
He is due to return there on Friday in another case, because the computer scientist was already accused of drug trafficking and possession of property obtained by crime.
One of his co-defendants, Stéphane Prescott, was a money collector for the Hells Angels, according to a judgment handed down in another trial in 2015.
Vachon-Desjardins is due to return to court on February 18 in the DoJ case.
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