NetWalker Hacker To Plead Guilty

Written by Mike Boutwell

August 19, 2022

On Tuesday, prolific Netwalker ransomware member Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins reached a plea deal with prosecutors and agreed to plead guilty to many crimes linked to a hacking campaign directed against a corporation situated in Florida.

Vachon-Desjardins, who is now 34 years old and was previously sentenced to seven years in prison by Canadian officials for earlier ransomware attacks, was extradited to the United States in March and has been detained in prison in Tampa ever since his arrival in the United States.

In a plea deal that was submitted on Tuesday, Vachon-Desjardins stated that she was willing to surrender the sum of $21.5 million, as well as around 27.65 BTC and dozens of seized equipment.

Attorney General of the United States for the Middle District of Florida According to Roger Handberg, Vachon-Desjardins has reached an agreement to plead guilty to four charges. These include conspiring to commit computer fraud and wire fraud, intentionally damaging a protected computer, and transmitting a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer.

The charges contain a combined maximum sentence of forty years in prison, although the document made references to a prospective deal where Vachon-Desjardins will face fewer years in exchange for cooperation.

The attorneys did not identify the targeted business but mentioned that it has its headquarters in Tampa and was assaulted on May 1, 2020.

The company received a ransom note from Vachon-Desjardins, which demanded $300,000 in bitcoin to be paid. However, the company did not pay the ransom and instead spent $1.2 million to recover from the event.

The Justice Department stated in the plea deal and in a presentation given earlier this month at the RSA conference that it was able to gain access to the backend server of the NetWalker Tor Panel and the NetWalker Blog, which provided them with a view into the operations of the gang. This information was used to facilitate the negotiation of the plea deal.

The organization was successful in coercing victims into paying around 5,058 bitcoin, which, depending on the price of bitcoin at the time of each transaction, was equivalent to almost $40 million.

The United States Department of Justice provided an explanation that stated, “These records also tied Vachon Desjardins to the successful extortion of approximately 1,864 bitcoin in ransoms (an approximate total of $21.5 million USD based on the value of bitcoin at the time of each transaction) from dozens of victim companies across the world, including Victim 1.”

Vachon-Desjardins was working for the Canadian government as an IT professional while conducting ransomware assaults on behalf of NetWalker, according to Carlton Gammons, the lead prosecutor for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

On January 27, 2021, the United States Department of Justice collaborated with its counterparts in Canada and Bulgaria to apprehend Vachon-Desjardins and seize control of the organization’s computer infrastructure.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detained Vachon-Desjardins at his residence in Quebec, where they also discovered approximately 719 Bitcoin in addition to almost half a million dollars in Canadian and United States money.

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