NetWalker ransomware crook sentenced to 20 years in prison • The Register

A former Canadian government employee who used NetWalker ransomware to extort tens of millions of dollars from organizations worldwide has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Sebastian Vachon-Desjardins, 35, of Gatineau, Quebec, was also asked to repay $21.5 million he stole from his cyberattacks on dozens of organizations worldwide, from businesses and municipalities to hospitals, law enforcement, emergency services, school districts , colleges and universities .

“The defendant in this case has used sophisticated technological means to exploit hundreds of victims in multiple countries at the height of an international health crisis,” Roger Handberg, the US Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, said in a statement yesterday.

NetWalker’s ransomware partners – losers who rent out the malware to use against victims – targeted hospitals during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and used the global crisis to blackmail healthcare organizations.

A federal district court judge in Florida has now ruled [PDF] Vachon-Desjardins to 240 months in prison for conspiring to commit computer and wire fraud, willfully damaging a protected computer and transmitting a claim relating to damage to a protected computer.

A US judge will issue a detailed restitution order at a later date.

Vachon-Desjardins pleaded guilty to all four counts in a US court in June, and his plea agreement described him as “one of NetWalker’s most prolific ransomware partners.”

At the time, Vachon-Desjardins, while facing up to 40 years in the slammer, said he would “fully cooperate with the United States” while American prosecutors worked to bring others who denounced the ransomware to justice . This included testifying against its former NetWalker subsidiaries.

According to the Justice Department, if this cooperation is qualified as “substantial assistance”, he can get away with a lighter sentence. Since his prison sentence was two decades rather than the full four, we suspect he coughed up at least some information.

In March, Vachon-Desjardins was extradited to the United States after being arrested by Canadian authorities in January 2021. Canadian law enforcement agencies searching Vachon-Desjardin’s Gatineau home discovered and seized C$742,840 ($546,386) and 719 Bitcoin worth approximately $21.85 million at the time of the seizure and $14.46 million today.

Around the time of Vachon-Desjardins’ arrest, the US Department of Justice, in cooperation with the Bulgarian National Investigative Service and the Bulgarian Directorate General for Combating Organized Crime, announced a dismantling of NetWalker’s infrastructure, including the seizure of approximately $454,530.19 in cryptocurrency ransom payments, and disabling a dark website used to communicate with NetWalker ransomware victims. ® NetWalker ransomware crook sentenced to 20 years in prison • The Register

Rick Schindler

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