17 Jun 2021
AP — Ukrainian police have carried out nearly two dozen raids targeting alleged associates of a Russian-speaking ransomware gang it blamed for a half billion dollars in cyberattacks and extortion that hit the United States and South Korea especially hard.
A police statement on Wednesday said 21 raids were conducted on the homes of suspects affiliated with the Clop ransomware syndicate in Kyiv and elsewhere, with computer equipment and about 5 million hryna ($185,000) in cash seized.
Six defendants carried out attacks on U.S. and Korean companies — for which they face up to eight years in prison for violating computer crime and money-laundering laws, the statement said. It did not say whether any suspects were detained, and said the investigation was ongoing. The Clop dark web leak site remained online hours after the raids were announced, suggesting the gang’s internet infrastructure might still be intact.
The most potent ransomware gangs operate with Kremlin tolerance, based out of reach of Western law enforcement. Russia neither prosecutes not extradites them. Trying to persuade its president, Vladimir Putin, to change that was a priority of U.S. President Joe Biden in their meeting Wednesday in Geneva. It’s not clear whether Biden made any headway.
Video posted by the Ukrainian police showed Korean police taking part in this week’s raids, where cash, cell phones and cars were also seized. The police statement said four Korean companies hit by the gang with the ransomware — which scrambles data that can only be unlocked with a software key obtained by paying the criminals — had paid ransoms. It said the gang targeted U.S. universities, including Stanford Medical School and the University of Maryland.
Wednesday’s raid “is a continuation of the much more aggressive posture that law enforcement has taken against ransomware gangs this year,” said analyst Allan Liska of the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. “It really does feel like law enforcement has figured out how to attack the ransomware scourge, and hopefully, will slow down the attacks.”
By Jim Heintz and Frank Bajak, Associated Press, 16 June 2016
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