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Ransomware affiliate apprehended in Romania

Europol, the European police agency, said Monday it had assisted in the arrest of a Romanian national suspected of targeting high-profile organizations and companies for their sensitive data.

Led by the Romanian National Police and supported by the FBI and Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, the arrest was conducted on Monday in Craiova, Romania.

According to Europol’s announcement, the apprehended individual is a 41-year-old Romanian national allegedly involved in a ransomware affiliate operation and suspected of having infiltrated the network of “a large Romanian IT company delivering services to clients in the retail, energy, and utilities sectors.”

“He is then believed to have deployed ransomware and stolen sensitive data from the IT company’s clients located in Romania and abroad, before encrypting their files,” Europol said in a press statement detailing the operation.

“The information stolen included the companies’ financial information, personal information about employees, customers’ details, and other important documents. The suspect would then ask for a sizable ransom payment in cryptocurrency, threatening to leak the stolen data on cybercrime forums should his demands not be met.”

Ransomware: an ever-growing threat

The rise of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) in the past year has enabled both technically inexperienced criminals and advanced threat actors to rapidly arrange sophisticated attacks against countless high-profile organizations ranging from oil pipelines and global tech companies to local small businesses. For maximum effect, criminals tend to target businesses that posess sensitive data and cannot handle a halt in operations.

“Ransomware gangs became much more focused and much more targeted, finding their victims in almost every possible industry that showed even the slightest vulnerability, including military, public administration, and, of course, hospitals and emergency services. And if the initial intrusion was successful, cybercriminals made the most of it,” Ondrej Kubovic, ESETs Security awareness specialist, said during the ESET World 2021 conference.

However, law enforcement agencies are trying to address the problem. While Europol did not disclose the name of the ransomware gang the suspect was involved in, the suspect is far from the first individual arrested in Romania for ransomware-related activities this year, after Europol apprehended several individuals affiliated with the REvil ransomware gang.

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