NetWalker ransomware operator sentenced to seven years in prison

Canadian citizen Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, a former NetWalker ransomware operator and malware partner program, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for his crimes.

Vashon-Desjardins was arrested in January 2021 when law enforcement carried out a massive operation to take down NetWalker. This malware was one of the most active threats of 2020, with at least 305 victims in 27 countries, including 203 in the US.

For example, we wrote that Netwalker ransomware attacked K-Electric, one of the largest electricity suppliers in Pakistan.

During the operation, the Bulgarian police seized a server that hosted the darknet portals of NetWalker operators, while law enforcement officers, meanwhile, charged Vachon-Desjardins, who “earned” at least $ 27.6 million by infecting the networks of various companies with this extortionist.

According to court documents released this week, Vashon-Desjardins “promptly pleaded guilty” and cooperated with the investigation, thereby rescuing the authorities from a years-long and complicated investigation. It turned out that in his role as a “partner” of NetWalker, he not only hacked company networks and infected them with ransomware, but also taught other criminals how to carry out attacks.

From May 2020 to January 2021, Vashon-Desjardins hacked companies around the world and “earned” more than 2,000 bitcoins from it. The hacker himself received about 1200 bitcoins, and the rest of the funds were transferred to the developers of NetWalker.according to court documents.

When Canadian law enforcement raided his home, they seized 720 bitcoins, as well as “bags of money containing between 100,000 and 150,000 Canadian dollars” that were obtained after laundering the cryptocurrency. In total, authorities confiscated 640,040 Canadian dollars in cash and another 420,941 Canadian dollars from the bank accounts of the hacker. Authorities estimate that the suspect “earned” over $30 million in total from the ransomware attacks.

For example, we wrote that the University of California paid more than million dollars to NetWalker operators.

In addition to money, during the search, investigators found more than 20 TB of data on Vashon-Desjardins devices, stolen from hacked organizations before the ransomware was deployed. The referee noted that if these data were printed out, they could fill the hockey arena.

Although Vashon-Desjardins attacked companies and organizations around the world, he was charged in Canada, where he infected 17 victims and caused at least 2.8 million Canadian dollars in damage (the fact is that in his native country he was already under investigation in a drug dealing case). As a result, the court ruled that it undertakes to compensate the losses of eight companies:

  1. Cegep St. Felicien – $999,239;
  2. Elite Group (Continental Casualty Company) – $725,963;
  3. Endoceutics Inc. – $72,503;
  4. Enterprise Robert Thibert Inc. – $289,472;
  5. Travelers Ins. Co. of Canada – $417,449;
  6. Robson Carpenter LLP – $2,500;
  7. Ville de Montmagny – $206,737;
  8. Windward Software Systems Inc. – $91,966.
Just a week before his sentencing on extortion charges, Vashon-Desjardins was also sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for drug dealing. He received an additional 6 years and 8 months in prison for his involvement in NetWalker extortion operations.
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Daniel Zimmermann

Daniel Zimmermann has been writing on security and malware subjects for many years and has been working in the security industry for over 10 years. Daniel was educated at the Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany and currently lives in New York.

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