Dutch police help role up international ransomware network
Twelve alleged members of a worldwide network of cybercriminals have been identified thanks to an international operation in which the Dutch police and judiciary participated. According to the Dutch police, the network carried out ransomware attacks on critical infrastructures, such as governments and multinationals worldwide, including a Rotterdam-based multinational. The police did not disclose the name of the company.
The authorities believe that the attacks by the criminal organization killed over 1,800 people in 71 countries. On Tuesday, authorities searched the homes of suspects in Ukraine and Switzerland. "Europol considers the majority of these suspects to be major criminals who appear in multiple investigations," the police said. The suspects are not in custody. What will happen to them will be decided at a later stage.
Over 52,000 dollars in cash were seized during the raids as well as five luxury vehicles, expensive watches, and data carriers like phones and laptops. An initial investigation of these found traces that indicate the spread of ransomware and the criminal infrastructure behind that spread, the police said.
According to the police, several suspects were involved in breaking into IT networks using, for example, stolen access data and phishing emails. Others explored the network and looked for vulnerabilities, while others spread ransomware. After a ransomware attack, the victim got a message demanding payment in bitcoins in exchange for decryption keys. Several suspects laundered the loot, according to the police.
The investigation in the Netherlands started in 2019, with the report filed by the Rotterdam-based multinational. The Dutch police and judiciary then tried to map out the criminal alliances behind the attacks, and they managed to identify the suspect of the attack on the multinational. They warned hundreds of potential victims worldwide - multinationals the criminals were eyeing or where they already penetrated the network.
The operation also involved the police in Norway, France, Scotland, Ukraine, Germany, and Switzerland, the French Public Prosecution Service, the FBI and the United States Secret Service, the British National Crime Agency, Europol, and Eurojust. A total of 55 foreign detectives helped the Ukrainian police during the raids, including four Dutch digital specialists.
Reporting by ANP