Ex-Canadian Government Employee Pleads Guilty to Involvement With NetWalker Ransomware Group
Early this week, an ex-Canadian government employee pleaded guilty in a Florida court to charges of involvement with the NetWalker ransomware group.
Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, 34, was accused of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and wire fraud, as well as intentional damage to a protected computer and transmitting a demand concerning damaging a protected computer.
In January, a US global action was launched against the NetWalker cyber-criminal gang. Vachon-Desjardins was extradited in March.
In February, Justice G.P. Renwick said “between May 2020 and January 2021, the defendant victimized 17 Canadian entities and others throughout the world by breaching private computer networks and systems, hi-jacking their data, holding the stolen data for ransom and distributing stolen data when ransoms were not paid.”
The NetWalker group has been active since 2019, with the group offering its malware to threat actors as a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) model.
A 2020 McAfee report suggested that NetWalker made $25 million in a span of just five months in that year.
Court documents filed in a district court in Florida claimed that the NetWalker group stole 5058 bitcoin in illegal payments. This amounted to about $40 million at the time of transaction.
Vachon-Desjardins was name “one of the most prolific NetWalker ransomware affiliates” and would be responsible for the extortion of about 1864 bitcoin.
Renwick said, “the Defendant excelled at what he did. Between 10-15 unknown individuals hired the Defendant to teach them his methods.”
“Some of these activities benefitted those interested in securing computer networks from these types of attacks. Some of the Defendant’s students were likely other cyber threat actors.”
Vachon-Desjardins has now agreed, as part of the plea deal, to forfeit all the digital assets held in his crypto wallet. The court has also ordered that he gives up all the various equipment he allegedly purchased using illegally obtained funds.
He has been sentenced to six years and eight months in prison by the Ontario Court of Justice.
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