Ukrainian cops cuff two over $150m ransomware gang allegations, seize $1.3m in cryptocurrency

Was it REvil? We don't (yet) know for sure


Ukrainian police have reportedly arrested two members of a ransomware gang – and while some have fingered REvil, no firm details have been published by cops from multiple countries.

A round of speculation was triggered when inter-EU law enforcement body Europol declared this morning that Ukrainian fuzz had arrested "two prolific ransomware operators known for their extortionate demands," claimed to be up to €70m.

One of the two suspects arrested on 28 September, according to the National Police of Ukraine, was a "hacker". The other allegedly "helped to withdraw money obtained by criminal means." $1.3m in cryptocurrency was said to have been frozen.

A multinational police operation with input from France's National Gendarmerie and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation helped lead the Ukraine cops to their targets, with support from Europol and Interpol.

The 25-year-old suspect allegedly deployed "virus software", compromising remote-working software, with one attack vector being "through spam-mailings on corporate e-mail boxes of malicious content."

As is their usual practice, the Ukrainian police published a video of themselves wandering around the accused perpetrator's home going through his belongings – which included Apple laptops, a gaming PC, and large quantities of $100 banknotes, said to be $375,000 in total.

Youtube Video

Two vehicles (described as "luxury" with no further detail) were also seized by local police, as were a total of seven properties.

"In total, the hacker attacked more than 100 foreign companies in North America and Europe," said the Ukrainian police, adding that they blamed the 25-year-old arrestee for causing $150m of damage to Western organisations.

Phone calls to Europol's press office went unanswered. We have contacted the Ukrainian police by email and will update this article if they respond.

In summer, police in Ukraine arrested half a dozen people whom they said were members of the Clop ransomware gang.

But was it REvil?

Numerous people speculated on Twitter that the latest Ukrainian arrests were members of the REvil ransomware gang. This was based solely on Europol's claim that the two main accused had once issued an "extortionate" €70m ransom demand, which has not been repeated by cops in Ukraine.

REvil once issued a ransom demand for $70m (c €60.1m) against managed service provider Kaseya) but that is not the same sum.

The REvil gang pulled its Tor-hosted portals offline in July, prompting speculation that the Russian-speaking criminal group had finally met its comeuppance. On the flip side, security intelligence firm Flashpoint said in September it had found comments on forums frequented by ransomware criminals complaining that REvil's rentable malware was ripping them off through a secret backdoor.

Separately, today McAfee issued its October threat report, saying: "Ryuk, REvil, Babuk, and Cuba ransomware actively deployed business models supporting others' involvement to exploit common entry vectors and similar tools. These, and other groups and their affiliates, exploit common entry vectors and, in many cases, the tools we see being used to move within an environment are the same."

It's a common theme: ransomware gangs tend to break in using known vulnerabilities or simply through well-crafted phishing emails, and if the Ukrainians are to be believed, that was one of the methods their suspect used. It's usually the front door, rarely the back. ®

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