Data Breach News

Conti And LockBit Ransomware Cryptor Developer Arrested By Ukraine Police

Arrest of cryptor developer the latest law enforcement action to hit the LockBit ransomware group, which remains active.

by Paul Shread June 12th, 2024

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Ukraine National Police have arrested a man they say helped disguise ransomware used by Russia-based threat groups.

The 28-year-old cryptor developer was unnamed in Ukraine and Netherlands announcements of the arrest, but the Dutch statement said he was arrested on April 18, 2024 in a lead-up to May’s massive “Operation Endgame” botnet takedown.

Cryptor Developer Worked with Conti, LockBit

Ukraine cyber ​​police and National Police investigators say they established that the man was involved in the LockBit and Conti ransomware groups.

The Kyiv man infected a company in the Netherlands with Conti ransomware in 2021, demanded a ransom and threatened to release confidential company information if payment wasn’t made, according to the Dutch announcement, which cited work by the Netherlands’ High Tech Crime Team of the National Operations and Interventions Unit and the National Public Prosecution Service. They requested Ukraine’s assistance in the case as part of their investigation.

As part of the arrest, Ukrainian police conducted house searches in the city of Kyiv and the Kharkiv region on April 18 and seized computer equipment, mobile phones and documents for further investigation (pictured below).

Items seized in Ukraine ransomware arrest

The Ukraine cyber police said the man “specialized in the development of cryptors,” or “special software for masking computer viruses under the guise of safe files” (quotes translated from the Ukraine statement).

“Thanks to his programming skills, the person involved was able to hide malicious software from the most popular antiviruses,” the Ukraine statement added.

LockBit Remains Active Despite Repeated Enforcement Activities

The Conti ransomware group reportedly dissolved in 2022 after a Ukrainian researcher leaked the group’s source code in retaliation for the group’s support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but LockBit has remained persistent.

Despite the Ukraine arrest and law enforcement successes like Operation Endgame, Operation Cronos, and the unmasking of formerly anonymous LockBit leader Dmitry Khoroshev, LockBit has shown an ability to continually regroup and reestablish threat activities, recently launching high-profile ransomware attacks such as one that the city of Wichita is finally recovering from.

Ukraine officials said the investigation is ongoing. The suspect is being charged under part 5 of Article 361, Unauthorized interference in the work of information (automated), electronic communication, information and communication systems, electronic communication networks, of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The article provides for publishment of up to 15 years of imprisonment, and additional charges are possible.

Netherlands officials thanked the Ukrainian investigators for their assistance and said they “are very pleased with the arrest in Ukraine and are grateful for the space that the Ukrainian police have found for this in times of war.”

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