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Canadian NetWalker Ransomware Affiliate Pleads Guilty in US

A Canadian national has pleaded guilty in a United States court to charges related to his role in a cybercrime operation involving the NetWalker ransomware.

Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, 34, is a former Canadian government employee. He was previously sentenced to seven years in prison in Canada for ransomware attacks.

A few weeks after his sentencing in Canada, Vachon-Desjardins was extradited to the United States to face cybercrime-related charges.

A court document filed this week shows that he has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, intentional damage to a protected computer, and transmitting a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer.

These charges carry a maximum sentence of between 5 and 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each charge.

The man is said to have made tens of millions of dollars as a result of his cybercriminal activities. As part of his plea deal, he has agreed to forfeit more than $20 million and pay restitution to victims.

NetWalker was a ransomware-as-a-service operation that emerged in 2019. The developers of the malware are believed to be Russia-based individuals.

Authorities say Vachon-Desjardins was an “affiliate” — an individual who identified and attacked targets with the ransomware. They described the man as “one of the most prolific NetWalker ransomware affiliates.”

The US announced charges against the Canadian national in January 2021, after law enforcement seized dark web sites used by NetWalker affiliates.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.