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U.S. Treasury Sanctions Russian Cash Launderer in Cybercrime Crackdown

Nov 06, 2023Newsroom

Money Launderer in Cybercrime

The U.S. Division of the Treasury imposed sanctions in opposition to a Russian girl for collaborating within the laundering of digital foreign money for the nation’s elites and cybercriminal crews, together with the Ryuk ransomware group.

Ekaterina Zhdanova, per the division, is claimed to have facilitated giant cross border transactions to help Russian people to realize entry to Western monetary markets and circumvent worldwide sanctions.

“Zhdanova makes use of entities that lack Anti-Cash Laundering/Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) controls, comparable to OFAC-designated Russian cryptocurrency change Garantex Europe OU (Garantex),” the treasury division stated final week.

“Zhdanova depends on a number of strategies of worth switch to maneuver funds internationally. This contains using money and leveraging connections to different worldwide cash laundering associates and organizations.”

It is price noting that Garantex was beforehand sanctioned by the U.S. in April 2022, coinciding with the takedown of the darkish net market generally known as Hydra.

Zhdanova has additionally been accused of providing providers to people related with the Russian Ryuk ransomware group, laundering over $2.3 million of suspected sufferer funds on behalf of a Ryuk ransomware affiliate in 2021.

Ryuk, a predecessor to the Conti ransomware, first emerged on the menace panorama in 2018, and has compromised governments, academia, healthcare, manufacturing, and expertise organizations worldwide.


Earlier this February, a 30-year-old Russian citizen named Denis Mihaqlovic Dubnikov pleaded responsible within the U.S. to cash laundering fees and for making an attempt to hide the supply of funds obtained in reference to Ryuk ransomware assaults.

Ransomware Continues to Evolve

The event comes as a file 514 ransomware victims have been reported for the month of September 2023, registering a 153% improve year-over-year, and up from 502 in July and 390 in August.

Practically 100 of these assaults have been attributed to nascent teams like LostTrust and RansomedVC. A few of the different new entrants noticed in current months embody Darkish Angels, Knight, Cash Message, and Good Day.

“The file ranges of ransomware assaults are partially the results of the emergence of recent menace actors together with RansomedVC,” NCC Group stated late final month.

“RansomedVC operates as ‘penetration testers.’ Nonetheless, its strategy to extortion additionally incorporates the declare that any vulnerabilities found of their targets’ community might be reported in compliance with Europe’s Basic Information Safety Regulation (GDPR).

The inflow of recent teams demonstrates the evolving ransomware panorama, at the same time as extra established menace actors proceed to adapt and refine their ways and methods to dodge safety controls.

Final month, Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 reported BlackCat’s addition of a utility codenamed Munchkin to its arsenal with a view to propagate the ransomware payload to distant machines and shares on a sufferer group community.

Ransomware Continues to Evolve

“This tooling supplied a Linux-based working system (OS) operating Sphynx,” Unit 42 researchers stated. “Risk operators can use this utility to run BlackCat on distant machines, or to deploy it to encrypt distant Server Message Block (SMB)/Widespread Web File Shares (CIFS).”


The diversification of ransomware is evidenced by the truth that hacktivist collectives comparable to GhostSec – which is a part of The 5 Households – have entered the fray, releasing a customized locker referred to as GhostLocker for monetary achieve.

“Even when GhostLocker will not be profitable within the [ransomware-as-a-service] market, it appears apparent that it’s a turning level as a mannequin,” SOCRadar stated. “The truth that it’s comparatively low-priced, works with a really low proportion foundation, and is accessible to nearly everybody can improve ransomware assaults to extreme ranges.”

Cybersecurity agency Uptycs, in its personal evaluation of GhostSec and GhostLocker, described the transfer as a “stunning departure from their previous actions and acknowledged agenda,” given the collective’s historical past of concentrating on Israeli entities in help of Palestine.

The spike in ransomware assaults has additionally prompted an alliance of fifty nations, referred to as the Worldwide Counter Ransomware Initiative, pledged by no means to pay ransom calls for in a bid to discourage financially motivated actors and ransomware gangs from profiting off such schemes.

“To defend in opposition to ransomware, it’s crucial to undertake a complete protection technique,” Uptycs stated. “This technique ought to embody resilient backup methods, efficient safety software program, consumer coaching, and a proactive incident response plan.”

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