Ukrainian cops nab husband and wife suspected to be part of $1m ransomware operation

Plus three other suspects nicked in raids today


Ukrainian police have arrested five people on suspicion of operating a ransomware gang, including a husband-and-wife team, following tipoffs from UK law enforcement.

"The organizer of the group, a 36-year-old resident of Kyiv, together with his wife and three acquaintances carried out cyberattacks on foreign companies," cops alleged in a characteristically blunt statement (in Ukrainian).

They claimed "more than 50" companies were targeted by the alleged gang, causing damage estimated at "more than one million US dollars."

"Police officers together with law enforcement officers from Great Britain and the United States of America conducted 9 searches in the homes of the suspects and in their cars. Computer equipment, mobile phones, bank cards, flash drives and three cars were seized," added the statement.

We have asked the National Crime Agency for comment and will update this article if we hear back.

The gang is said to have operated private VPNs, masking users' IP addresses so they could "secretly carry out illegal activities." British bank card holders were then targeted by the crims, who used stolen details to make online purchases.

All suspects were charged with "unauthorised interference in the work of computers" under article 361 of the Ukrainian criminal code, as well as creating or distributing malware and money laundering.

Ukraine has embarked on a spree of arrests of people it says are ransomware suspects. In October two people, rumoured online to have been members of the REvil ransomware gang, were arrested on suspicion of being "prolific ransomware operators."

In June six people alleged to be members of the Clop ransomware gang were nicked – not that this stopped Clop from claiming the credit for hacks after that date.

Last week yet more alleged members of the REvil gang were arrested in various police raids across the European continent, while another, 22-year-old Yaroslav Vasinskyi, was charged by the US with carrying out REvil ransomware attacks. He will face trial after being arrested on the Polish border, seemingly having forgotten that the country has an extradition treaty with the US. ®

Bootnote

Usually Ukrainian cops' arrest statements come with an unintentionally funny YouTube video. Typically this is half an hour of mobile phone footage of people dressed haphazardly in hi-viz stab vests pawing through desk drawers, looking at piles of cash and hard drives, operating PCs and so on. Usually there's a flash sports car or two on the accused's driveway too.

This time round there was no video, but there was a picture of an unremarkable beige Toyota SUV. Perhaps these suspects kept themselves to themselves rather than flaunting any of their ill-gotten gains.

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