Well, well, well. Crime does pay: Ransomware creeps let off with community service

Dutch court goes easy on Coinvault duo


Two men who masterminded various Coinvault ransomware infections will carry out 240 hours of community service as punishment for screwing over 1,200 computers and banking around €10,000 (£9k, $12k) in profit.

The sentence was handed down by a court in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, where it was ruled brothers Melvin and Dennis van den B. had earned leniency based on their cooperation with police, lack of a criminal record, and young ages at the time they were collared in 2015. Melvin was 22 and Dennis 18 at the time of their arrest.

Prosecutors had asked they receive a year in prison in addition to the 240 hours of community service.

Coinvault surfaced in 2014 as a high-profile file-scrambling malware. The software encrypted victims' documents, and demanded they pay a ransom of one Bitcoin (worth a few hundred Euros at the time) to restore access to their data.

While the pair was only charged with infecting 1,259 machines, researchers have estimated that the actual number of PCs hit with the malware was more like 14,000, with victims in more than 20 countries.

It was claimed in court that about 100 people coughed up the ransom demands before antivirus makers were able to develop a decryption tool to unscrambled hostage files. The malware would only be eradicated fully in 2015 when the brothers were arrested and the full decryption keys were recovered.

Interestingly, it was the pair's Dutch nationality that brought them down. Researchers were able to pinpoint the locality of the authors to the Netherlands after finding snippets of the code containing "flawless Dutch phrases" that are usually only bandied about by native speakers of the notoriously difficult language.

Kaspersky Lab, who helped lead the investigation and eventual takedown of Coinvault, said that, despite the lenient sentence, the ultimate takeaway from the three-year ordeal should be that, in the end, extortionists get caught.

"Cybercrime doesn’t pay," said Kaspersky Lab researcher Jornt van der Wiel. "If you become a victim of criminal or ransomware activity, keep your files and report the incident to the police. Never pay the ransom and be confident that not only will the decryption tool appear, but also that justice will triumph in regards to the criminals." ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Now Windows Follina zero-day exploited to infect PCs with Qbot
    Data-stealing malware also paired with Black Basta ransomware gang

    Miscreants are reportedly exploiting the recently disclosed critical Windows Follina zero-day flaw to infect PCs with Qbot, thus aggressively expanding their reach.

    The bot's operators are also working with the Black Basta gang to spread ransomware in yet another partnership in the underground world of cyber-crime, it is claimed.

    This combination of Follina exploitation and its use to extort organizations makes the malware an even larger threat for enterprises. Qbot started off as a software nasty that raided people's online bank accounts, and evolved to snoop on user keystrokes and steal sensitive information from machines. It can also deliver other malware payloads, such as backdoors and ransomware, onto infected Windows systems, and forms a remote-controllable botnet.

    Continue reading
  • HelloXD ransomware bulked up with better encryption, nastier payload
    Russian-based group doubles the extortion by exfiltrating the corporate data before encrypting it.

    Windows and Linux systems are coming under attack by new variants of the HelloXD ransomware that includes stronger encryption, improved obfuscation and an additional payload that enables threat groups to modify compromised systems, exfiltrate files and execute commands.

    The new capabilities make the ransomware, first detected in November 2021 - and the developer behind it even more dangerous - according to researchers with Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 threat intelligence group. Unit 42 said the HelloXD ransomware family is in its initial stages but it's working to track down the author.

    "While the ransomware functionality is nothing new, during our research, following the lines, we found out the ransomware is most likely developed by a threat actor named x4k," the researchers wrote in a blog post.

    Continue reading
  • Emotet malware gang re-emerges with Chrome-based credit card heistware
    Crimeware groups are re-inventing themselves

    The criminals behind the Emotet botnet – which rose to fame as a banking trojan before evolving into spamming and malware delivery – are now using it to target credit card information stored in the Chrome web browser.

    Once the data – including the user's name, the card's numbers and expiration information – is exfiltrated, the malware will send it to command-and-control (C2) servers that are different than the one that the card stealer module uses, according to researchers with cybersecurity vendor Proofpoint's Threat Insight team.

    The new card information module is the latest illustration of Emotet's Lazarus-like return. It's been more than a year since Europol and law enforcement from countries including the United States, the UK and Ukraine tore down the Emotet actors' infrastructure in January 2021 and – they hoped – put the malware threat to rest.

    Continue reading
  • Even Russia's Evil Corp now favors software-as-a-service
    Albeit to avoid US sanctions hitting it in the wallet

    The Russian-based Evil Corp is jumping from one malware strain to another in hopes of evading sanctions placed on it by the US government in 2019.

    You might be wondering why cyberextortionists in the Land of Putin give a bit flip about US sanctions: as we understand it, the sanctions mean anyone doing business with or handling transactions for gang will face the wrath of Uncle Sam. Evil Corp is therefore radioactive, few will want to interact with it, and the group has to shift its appearance and operations to keep its income flowing.

    As such, Evil Corp – which made its bones targeting the financial sector with the Dridex malware it developed – is now using off-the-shelf ransomware, most recently the LockBit ransomware-as-a-service, to cover its tracks and make it easier to get the ransoms they demand from victims paid, according to a report this week out of Mandiant.

    Continue reading
  • Symantec: More malware operators moving in to exploit Follina
    Meanwhile Microsoft still hasn't patched the fatal flaw

    While enterprises are still waiting for Microsoft to issue a fix for the critical "Follina" vulnerability in Windows, yet more malware operators are moving in to exploit it.

    Microsoft late last month acknowledged the remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability – tracked as CVE-2022-30190 – but has yet to deliver a patch for it. The company has outlined workarounds that can be used until a fix becomes available.

    In the meantime, reports of active exploits of the flaw continue to surface. Analysts with Proofpoint's Threat Insight team earlier this month tweeted about a phishing campaign, possibly aligned with a nation-state targeting US and European Union agencies, which uses Follina. The Proofpoint researchers said the malicious spam messages were sent to fewer than 10 Proofpoint product users.

    Continue reading
  • Unpatched Exchange server, stolen RDP logins... How miscreants get BlackCat ransomware on your network
    Microsoft details this ransomware-as-a-service

    Two of the more prolific cybercriminal groups, which in the past have deployed such high-profile ransomware families as Conti, Ryuk, REvil and Hive, have started adopting the BlackCat ransomware-as-as-service (RaaS) offering.

    The use of the modern Rust programming language to stabilize and port the code, the variable nature of RaaS, and growing adoption by affiliate groups all increase the chances that organizations will run into BlackCat – and have difficulty detecting it – according to researchers with the Microsoft 365 Defender Threat Intelligence Team.

    In an advisory this week, Microsoft researchers noted the myriad capabilities of BlackCat, but added the outcome is always the same: the ransomware is deployed, files are stolen and encrypted, and victims told to either pay the ransom or risk seeing their sensitive data leaked.

    Continue reading
  • DeadBolt ransomware takes another shot at QNAP storage
    Keep boxes updated and protected to avoid a NAS-ty shock

    QNAP is warning users about another wave of DeadBolt ransomware attacks against its network-attached storage (NAS) devices – and urged customers to update their devices' QTS or QuTS hero operating systems to the latest versions.

    The latest outbreak – detailed in a Friday advisory – is at least the fourth campaign by the DeadBolt gang against the vendor's users this year. According to QNAP officials, this particular run is encrypting files on NAS devices running outdated versions of Linux-based QTS 4.x, which presumably have some sort of exploitable weakness.

    The previous attacks occurred in January, March, and May.

    Continue reading
  • Cheers ransomware hits VMware ESXi systems
    Now we can say extortionware has jumped the shark

    Another ransomware strain is targeting VMware ESXi servers, which have been the focus of extortionists and other miscreants in recent months.

    ESXi, a bare-metal hypervisor used by a broad range of organizations throughout the world, has become the target of such ransomware families as LockBit, Hive, and RansomEXX. The ubiquitous use of the technology, and the size of some companies that use it has made it an efficient way for crooks to infect large numbers of virtualized systems and connected devices and equipment, according to researchers with Trend Micro.

    "ESXi is widely used in enterprise settings for server virtualization," Trend Micro noted in a write-up this week. "It is therefore a popular target for ransomware attacks … Compromising ESXi servers has been a scheme used by some notorious cybercriminal groups because it is a means to swiftly spread the ransomware to many devices."

    Continue reading
  • Ransomware encrypts files, demands three good deeds to restore data
    Shut up and take ... poor kids to KFC?

    In what is either a creepy, weird spin on Robin Hood or something from a Black Mirror episode, we're told a ransomware gang is encrypting data and then forcing each victim to perform three good deeds before they can download a decryption tool.

    The so-called GoodWill ransomware group, first identified by CloudSEK's threat intel team, doesn't appear to be motivated by money. Instead, it is claimed, they require victims to do things such as donate blankets to homeless people, or take needy kids to Pizza Hut, and then document these activities on social media in photos or videos.

    "As the threat group's name suggests, the operators are allegedly interested in promoting social justice rather than conventional financial reasons," according to a CloudSEK analysis of the gang. 

    Continue reading
  • Costa Rican government held up by ransomware … again
    Also US warns of voting machine flaws and Google pays out $100 million to Illinois

    In brief Last month the notorious Russian ransomware gang Conti threatened to overthrow Costa Rica's government if a ransom wasn't paid. This month, another band of extortionists has attacked the nation.

    Fresh off an intrusion by Conti last month, Costa Rica has been attacked by the Hive ransomware gang. According to the AP, Hive hit Costa Rica's Social Security system, and also struck the country's public health agency, which had to shut down its computers on Tuesday to prevent the spread of a malware outbreak.

    The Costa Rican government said at least 30 of the agency's servers were infected, and its attempt at shutting down systems to limit damage appears to have been unsuccessful. Hive is now asking for $5 million in Bitcoin to unlock infected systems.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022