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Ukrainian police arrest hacker who caused $150 million damage to global firms

Ukrainian police said on Monday they had arrested a 25-year-old man who hacked more than 100 foreign companies and caused damage worth more than $150 million.

The hacker, who was not identified, used phishing attacks and hijacked software that allows computers to be accessed remotely, a police statement said. The victims included "world-famous energy and tourism companies", it added.

The hacker was caught with the help of law enforcement officials from the United States, France, Europol and Interpol.

Police conducted searches at the homes of the defendant and his relatives.

"As a result, computer equipment, mobile phones, vehicles, and more than 360 thousand dollars in cash were seized. In addition, $1.3 million was blocked on the attacker's cryptocurrencies," the police said.

Year in turmoil

Cyberattacks are increasing in scale, sophistication, and scope. In 2020, ransomware payments reached over $400 million, more than four times the level of 2019. This year will likely set another record benchmark for ransomware cartels globally.

The last 12 months were ripe with major high-profile cyberattacks on network management companies such as SolarWinds, the Colonial Pipeline's oil network, meat processing company JBS, and software firm Kaseya. Pundits talk of a ransomware gold rush, with the number of attacks increasing over 90% in the first half of 2021 alone.

Recently, a Russia-linked cyber cartel attacked a major US farm service provider New Cooperative Inc., demanding $5.9 million in ransom.

A recent IBM report shows that an average data breach costs victims $4.24 million per incident, the highest in the 17 years. For example, the average cost stood at $3.86 million per incident last year, putting recent results at a 10% increase.

Some ransomware groups went dark for a while, after carrying out major attacks. A cool-off period is likely meant to regroup, and recent developments show that cybercrime cartels are waking up and will likely be on the prowl for the next major extortion scheme.

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