The 20-year-old Russian hacker was part of a campaign that extorted tens of millions of dollars from more than 1,400 victims. federal prosecutors said Thursday.

New Jersey federal prosecutors said Ruslan Astamrov, a citizen of the Russian-controlled republic of Chechnya, was arrested by federal law enforcement on an unspecified date and faces charges of conspiracy to commit ransom fraud.

Astamirov allegedly deployed a ransomware called LockBit to steal sensitive data from the companies’ servers, then lock those systems and demand hundreds of thousands of dollars in payment. If the victims did not pay, Astarimov allegedly threatened to reveal the data.

Justice Department prosecutors allege that Astamirov was directly responsible for five different attacks against US companies in Florida and Virginia, as well as international companies based in France, Japan and Kenya.

The complaint says at least one victim paid $700,000. Another victim refused to pay, and Astamirov uploaded his data to LockBit’s public server, according to the complaint.

Attacks powered by LockBit account for 16% of ransomware attacks against state and local governments, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“In securing the arrest of a second Russian citizen linked to LockBit ransomware, the administration has once again demonstrated the long arm of the law. We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to disrupt cybercrime, and while cybercriminals may continue to operate, they ultimately cannot hide,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. .

LockBit was first identified in January 2020 in Russian-language cybercrime forums. It is part of a class of hacking methods and techniques called ransomware as a service (RaaS).

In RaaS, a technical team of developers exploits and maintains software to infiltrate corporate or individual computers, and then end users buy the software and deploy it against corporate networks. End users pay either a fee or a percentage of their profits to the technical group behind LockBit.

Prosecutors said in a statement announcing his arrest that Astamirov will face a federal judge on Thursday. He is the third individual linked to Russia to be charged with offenses related to the use of LockBit.

His arrest comes at a time when cyber security matters are increasing in scale and importance. NBC News reported Thursday about a massive cyberattack has affected Several federal agencies. CNBC previously reported how a Chinese-backed cyber group hacked US Navy systems, according to Secretary of the Navy Carlos del Toro.


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