US authorities have charged a Russian hacker, Mikhail Pavlovich Matveev, also known as Wazawaka, for his alleged involvement with multiple ransomware groups that targeted hospitals, schools, and police departments. The Department of Justice stated that Matveev was an active member of three ransomware gangs, collectively demanding $400 million from victims and receiving almost $200 million in ransom payments.
Ransomware Groups’ Tactics and Extortion Demands
Ransomware groups typically gain unauthorized access to computer networks and deploy malicious software that encrypts the data, rendering the computers unusable. These groups demand ransom payments in cryptocurrency and threaten to expose stolen data if the ransom is not paid.
The indictment accuses Matveev of being a member of the Lockbit, Babuk, and Hive ransomware gangs, which cybersecurity experts consider as highly active and destructive cybercriminal threats. Philip Sellinger, the US attorney for the District of New Jersey, stated in the indictment that Matveev and other group members targeted around 2,800 victims worldwide, including the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., where they published stolen personnel files. Churches and nonprofits were also among their victims, as stated by the Department of Justice.
In January 2022, cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs had previously revealed Matveev’s identity, reporting his alleged affiliation with the Darkside ransomware group responsible for the attack on Colonial Pipeline Co. in May 2021.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division described Matveev as operating from Russia and utilizing various ransomware variants to attack critical infrastructure worldwide, including hospitals, government agencies, and other sectors.
Moreover, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has sanctioned Matveev for his involvement in launching ransomware attacks against US law enforcement, businesses, and critical infrastructure, as stated in the Department of Justice’s press release.