US and UK sanctioned seven Russian members of Trickbot gang

Pierluigi Paganini February 09, 2023

The US and the UK have sanctioned seven Russian individuals for their involvement in the TrickBot operations.

The US and the UK authorities have sanctioned seven Russian individuals for their involvement in the TrickBot operations.

The US Treasury has frozen the assets belonging to the individuals and imposed travel bans against them.

The US Treasury points out that persons that engage in certain transactions with the sanctioned individuals may themselves be exposed to designation.

“Today, the United States, in coordination with the United Kingdom, is designating seven individuals who are part of the Russia-based cybercrime gang Trickbot.” reads the press release published by the US Treasury.

“Russia is a haven for cybercriminals, where groups such as Trickbot freely perpetrate malicious cyber activities against the U.S., the U.K., and allies and partners. These malicious cyber activities have targeted critical infrastructure, including hospitals and medical facilities during a global pandemic, in both the U.S. and the U.K.”

This is the first time the UK government has imposed such kind of sanctions, its authorities collaborated with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office; National Crime Agency; and His Majesty’s Treasury.

The operation aimed at disrupting Russian cybercrime and ransomware.

The members of the Trickbot Group are also linked to the Russian Intelligence Services.

“The Trickbot Group’s preparations in 2020 aligned them to Russian state objectives and targeting previously conducted by Russian Intelligence Services.” continues the press release. “This included targeting the U.S. government and U.S. companies.”

Below is the list of Russian individuals sanctioned by the US and the UK:

  • Vitaly Kovalev was a senior figure within the Trickbot Group. Vitaly Kovalev is also known as the online monikers “Bentley” and “Ben”. Today, an indictment was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey charging Kovalev with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and eight counts of bank fraud in connection with a series of intrusions into victim bank accounts held at various U.S.-based financial institutions that occurred in 2009 and 2010, predating his involvement in Dyre or the Trickbot Group.
  • Maksim Mikhailov has been involved in development activity for the Trickbot Group. Maksim Mikhailov is also known as the online moniker “Baget”.
  • Valentin Karyagin has been involved in the development of ransomware and other malware projects. Valentin Karyagin is also known as the online moniker “Globus”.
  • Mikhail Iskritskiy has worked on money-laundering and fraud projects for the Trickbot Group. Mikhail Iskritskiy is also known as the online moniker “Tropa”.
  • Dmitry Pleshevskiy worked on injecting malicious code into websites to steal victims’ credentials. Dmitry Pleshevskiy is also known as the online moniker “Iseldor”.
  • Ivan Vakhromeyev has worked for the Trickbot Group as a manager. Ivan Vakhromeyev is also known as the online moniker “Mushroom”.
  • Valery Sedletski has worked as an administrator for the Trickbot Group, including managing servers. Valery Sedletski is also known as the online moniker “Strix”.:

“By sanctioning these cyber criminals, we are sending a clear signal to them and others involved in ransomware that they will be held to account.” said UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. “These cynical cyber attacks cause real damage to people’s lives and livelihoods. We will always put our national security first by protecting the UK and our allies from serious organised crime – whatever its form and wherever it originates.”

“This is a hugely significant moment for the UK and our collaborative efforts with the US to disrupt international cyber criminals.” said National Crime Agency Director-General Graeme Biggar. “The sanctions are the first of their kind for the UK and signal the continuing campaign targeting those responsible for some of the most sophisticated and damaging ransomware that has impacted the UK and our allies. They show that these criminals and those that support them are not immune to UK action, and this is just one tool we will use to crack down on this threat and protect the public.”

TrickBot is a popular Windows banking Trojan that has been around since October 2016, its authors have continuously upgraded it by implementing new features, including powerful password-stealing capabilities.

TrickBot initially partnered with Ryuk ransomware that used it for initial access in the network compromised by the botnet. Then Ryuk was replaced by Conti Ransomware gang who has been using Trickbot for the same purpose.

In 2021, the Conti gang used in exclusive the TrickBot to achieve initial accesses in the network of organizations worldwide.

The goal of the Conti gang is to aggregate highly skilled members of the ransomware ecosystem in a structure, which gives them a little autonomy, to monopolize the market.

The TrickBot’s core team of developers had already created a stealthier piece of malware dubbed BazarBackdoor, used to achieve remote access into corporate networks and use it to deploy the ransomware.

With the increasing popularity of TrickBot it became easy to detect it with antimalware solutions, for this reason the gang began employing the BazarBackdoor for initial access to networks.

By the end of 2021, Conti gang employed core developers and managers of the TrickBot botnet.

In February 2022, the Conti ransomware group took over TrickBot malware operation and planned to replace it with BazarBackdoor malware.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Trickbot)

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