Hacker Arrested, Charged, and Sentenced in the Kaseya Ransomware Attack

In what is being heralded as a massive victory, a federal judge sentenced the hacker behind the well-known Kaseya ransomware attack to 13 years and 7 months in prison. Yaroslav Vasinskyi, a Ukrainian national, was also ordered by the judge to pay more than $16 million in restitution for his role in the attack. Kaseya impacted hundreds of businesses around the globe. While the cyber thug was potentially on the hook for more than 115 years in federal prison for his crimes, this is still considered a big win for organizations worldwide. Not only does this send a strong message to other hackers that they could potentially get caught and end up in a prison cell, but it also shows victims that justice can be done on their behalf.

The Case Against Vasinskyi

Vasinskyi pled guilty in a federal courtroom, charged with 11 separate counts ranging from conspiracy to commit fraud to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He had been extradited to the United States by our allies in Poland so he could face his charges. The DOJ and FBI worked tirelessly to seek justice for the companies impacted by the Kaseya attack and they were able reach out and arrest the offender, even though he was hiding in a foreign country. The charges included over 2,500 ransomware attacks, which demanded more than $700 million total in ransom payments.

Known as Rabotnik in the hacker community, Vasinskyi utilized ransomware known as Sodinokibi/Revil. He and his co-conspirators demanded payments via cryptocurrency, as is typical for this type of attack, and used a variety of cryptocurrency exchangers to hide the money they received. In addition to stealing the sensitive data of their vicitims, Rabotnik and his gang would also publicly expose the information when the companies were unable to or refused to pay the ransom demands. They attempted to launder the monies that they received and cover their digital tracks, but law enforcement officials were able to uncover the proof and charge Vasinskyi for his crimes.

Why Do Hackers Do What They Do?

While this landmark case shows that the tide could be turning for businesses who have been victims of nasty ransomware attacks, it is still essential to continue learning all we can about hackers and understand why they do what they do. Hollywood paints a romantic picture of hackers, either as social justice warriors trying to “stick it to the man,” or as cool geniuses who are slick and impossible to catch. Billions of dollars are lost each year to cyber criminals just in the United States alone. It is important for business owners to do everything in their power to protect their sensitive data by enacting professional security protocols and relying on comprehensive services to prevent attacks like these from occurring.

Some of the reasons why the experts believe hackers do what they do include:

  • The Challenge – Hacking isn’t something just any computer-savvy person can do, it takes knowledge, skills, practice, and a methodical mind to get the job done. Thinking outside the box, learning to see around an obstacle and break through it is just part of the game. Identifying a system’s vulnerabilities opens up a whole range of opportunities for a good hacker to exploit.
  • The Money – Of course there are financial benefits associated with ransoming sensitive data to companies that can afford to pay to regain access to it. Much is to be gained from hacking and taking advantage of weaknesses in a company’s system.
  • The Notoriety – Some hackers do what they do just to achieve a certain level of respect within the black hat community. The adoration, appreciation, and credit received by other top level hackers can be quite attractive, especially to a young hacker trying to earn respect.
  • The Law-Breaker – Breaking the law is another type of thrill that many crave. Being able to get the best of top IT systems and securities isn’t enough, it’s being able to steal and commit crimes digitally that attracts this type of hacker.
  • The Rebel – Some hackers do what they do to prove a point or support a cause, politically or socially. Perceived wrongdoings by corporations can make them a target for black hat hackers who want to teach them a lesson or bring them down entirely.

Crime and Punishment

While it might seem like crime pays, especially when it comes to multi-million dollar payouts from ransomed companies, there is a negative side to hacking. Black hat hacking is illegal and a lot of the things that these hackers do are considered crimes. Anything from simple identity theft, which is currently on the rise, to accessing a network without authorization, is punishable by many years in prison for each offense. Robbery and extortion, which is what making a ransom threat actually is, could even come with a serious stint in prison for as much as 20 years. This is well-known throughout the hacker community, yet these black hat hackers continue to take the risk.

On the other side of the coin, some of the very best white hat hackers – those who use their skills for positive purposes – are often former black hat hackers. Choosing to go on the straight and narrow, quit breaking laws, and use their talents professionally can also be quite lucrative. White hat hackers are just as competitive, smart, and daring as their black hat counterparts, but they work for an honorable purpose. Identifying vulnerabilities within a company’s network, improving security and productivity, as well as helping companies to take their technology to the next level, are just some of the things that they do.

How to Prevent Attacks

Today’s hackers have become more advanced and sophisticated in their methods than they were just a few years ago. As their skills, experience, and techniques evolve, today’s businesses need to be ready to prevent attacks from occurring and find new ways to quickly recover from an attack. Business continuity programs are essential to ensure that you have everything backed up and ready to go so you can get back to work as soon as possible following an attack. This is a very proactive method designed to support victims of ransomware attacks and data theft attacks so they can recover as quickly as they can. Gone are the days of simplistic phishing attacks and viruses. If you haven’t started thinking about increasing your network security, now is the time to do so.

Today’s cyber criminals use a hodge-podge of different tools and techniques, including such advanced methods as artificial intelligence and machine learning. They no longer use blanket email attacks to achieve their goals, but finely tuned and advanced social engineering tactics designed to garner the highest results. You will be faced – if you haven’t already – with threats that are more adaptive and potent than ever before. The technologies currently used by modern black hat hackers use highly evolved malware and ransomware programs designed to thwart any security system available today. It is essential that you and your security team work together to create more advanced security strategies designed to mitigate the potential risks associated with these intense attacks.

How Can Synivate Help?

We highly recommend working with our team to enhance your current security protocols and augment the services provided by your in-house IT department. For small businesses without an IT technician on-site, we offer 24/7 monitoring and management services that are more affordable than you might think. Regular security audits should be performed to identify any vulnerabilities within your IT infrastructure, including all software, hardware, peripherals, and network. Employee training and support is essential, as many attacks often originate with compromised credentials or simple human error. The more you and your team know about cyberattacks – and how they work – the easier it will be to spot them when they occur.

Contact our team by calling us at 617-517-0704. We can answer any questions that you might have about our services and set you up with a free initial review to help you identify the areas that require the most immediate support. Whether you want to set up a business continuity program with backup and recovery options or if you are ready to overhaul your entire IT infrastructure, Synivate can help. You can count on our many years of experience working with companies just like yours throughout the Greater Boston area and beyond. Call today and see why so many businesses have trusted our team to help them protect their sensitive data and networks, while preparing them for the future with our innovative technology solutions.

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Sean Maguire