Ukraine Police arrested a hacker who developed a crypter used by Conti and LockBit ransomware operation

Pierluigi Paganini June 12, 2024

The Ukraine cyber police arrested a Russian man for having developed the crypter component employed in Conti and LockBit ransomware operations.

The Ukraine cyber police arrested a Russian man (28) for his role in developing a crypter used in Conti and LockBit ransomware operations.

The man was arrested in Kyiv on April 18, 2024, as part of the international law enforcement operation called ‘Operation Endgame.’ 

A crypter is a software used to obfuscate or encrypt malicious code to prevent detection by antivirus programs and other security tools. Crypters achieve this by converting the malware into an unreadable form and then packaging it with a decryption routine that will restore the original malicious code when executed. Crypters play a significant role in the cybercrime ecosystem by enabling malware authors to bypass security defenses.

“The police found out that the young man specialized in the development of cryptors (from the English crypt – hiding place) – special software for masking computer viruses under the guise of safe files.” reads the report published by Ukraine cyber police. “Thanks to his programming skills, the person involved was able to hide malicious software from the most popular antiviruses.”

The Ukrainian law enforcement was supported by the Dutch police who responded to a ransomware attack that hit a Dutch company.

The police identified the Russian hacker group who was paid with cryptocurrency to disguise the “Conti-malware” encryptor. By the end of 2021, a cybercrime gang deployed the ransomware in the network of companies in the Netherlands and Belgium and demanded a ransom for decrypting the infected systems.

“The police were tipped off by the NCSC (National Cyber ​​Security Center) and, after further investigation, discovered that the Ukrainian man infected the computer networks of a company in the Netherlands with Conti’s malware in 2021; a hacker group that offers ransomware for sale. As a result, company data was encrypted and made inaccessible.” states the Dutch Police. “The group then demanded a ransom for making the company data accessible again and not leaking it. The Dutch company filed a report with the police in 2021 and on this basis Team High Tech Crime was able to continue with the investigation.”

The cyber police discovered that the Russian hacker helped the Russian cybercrime groups “LockBit” and “Conti.” The police, along with the “TacTeam” special unit, conducted a search in Kyiv and, following an international request from Dutch law enforcement, another search in the Kharkiv region. The police seized computer equipment, mobile phones, and draft records.

The investigation is still ongoing, the man was charged under part 5 of Art. 361 (Unauthorized interference in the work of information (automated), electronic communication, information and communication systems, electronic communication networks) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The man can face up to 15 years of imprisonment. Additional legal qualifications are possible.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, LockBit ransomware)

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