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Dutch Court Sentences CoinVault Ransomware Authors to Community Service

Two Dutch men were sentenced on Thursday to 240 hours of community service for creating and using the CoinVault ransomware.

The suspects are brothers, identified by Dutch media as Melvin and Dennis van den B., currently aged 25 and 21, respectively. They were both arrested in 2015 and accused of creating CoinVault, one of the first pieces of file-encrypting ransomware, and its successor, Bitcryptor.

Their trial took place on July 12 and they have now been sentenced to 240 hours of community service, which is the maximum time of community service someone can serve. They have also been ordered to pay restitution to some of their victims.

Prosecutors asked for a three-month prison sentence and nine months suspended in addition to community service. However, the sentence has been reduced due to the fact that the brothers cooperated with the police, including to help victims recover their files, and have not committed any other crimes since their arrest in 2015.

The suspects were accused of hacking into computers and extorting nearly 1,300 individuals. However, Kaspersky Lab, which investigated CoinVault back in 2014 when the threat emerged and helped police identify the hackers, noted that there were actually roughly 14,000 victims worldwide.

A decryption tool for the CoinVault ransomware is available from the NoMoreRansom initiative, but some victims have not been able to recover their files due to some implementation errors that prevented recovery even with the decryption keys.

The cybercriminals were identified by Dutch police after Kaspersky researchers found a first name in the malware code. According to some reports, the CoinVault authors also failed to hide their real IP address on at least one occasion.

“Cybercrime doesn’t pay,” said Kaspersky Lab researcher Jornt van der Wiel, commenting on the case. “If you become a victim of criminal or ransomware activity, keep your files and report the incident to the police. Never pay the ransom and be confident that not only will the decryption tool appear, but also that justice will triumph in regards to the criminals.”

Related: Authorities Dismantle Ransomware Cybergang

Related: French Nationals Arrested for 'Rex Mundi' Hacks

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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.