Canadian-Based Netwalker Ransomware Affiliate Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison

A member of the Netwalker ransomware gang has been sentenced to 20 years in prison and is ordered to pay a forfeit of $21,500,000 for his role in a number of ransomware attacks. The 35-year-old Gatineau, Quebec resident Sebastian Vachon-Desjardins utilized Netwalker ransomware to attack numerous organizations, towns, hospitals, law enforcement agencies, emergency services, school districts, schools, universities and during the pandemic, the health sector. Affiliates are employed by Netwalker’s ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operations to carry out attacks and spread ransomware in exchange for a share of the ransom payments they produce, which typically generate affiliates up to 75% of any ransoms paid. Ransomware payments can vary from a few thousand to millions of dollars. 

The arrest comes as a part of U.S. law enforcement’s campaign to eliminate the Netwalker ransomware gang. Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins is a 34 year old former IT consultant who was employed by the Canadian Public Works and Government Services. The cybercriminal was detained in his home in Gatineau, Quebec, by law enforcement after obtaining a search warrant over suspicion of conducting ransomware attacks. During the search, Canadian law enforcement found $742,840 in Canadian dollars and 719 Bitcoin which amounted to approximately $21,850,000 at the time of seizure. Following detainment, Vachon-Desjardins pleaded guilty to breaching companies, conducting ransomware attacks and acknowledged training other individuals to conduct the same attacks. Experts believe that Vachon-Desjardins earned up to $30 million Canadian dollars between May 2020 and January 2021. Vachon-Desjardins was sentenced to 6 years and 8 months in prison for the crimes committed in Canada, and he was also ordered to make reparation payments of up to $999,239 to the 8 victims of his attacks. Furthermore, Vachon-Desjardins received a second term of 4.5 years in prison as he awaited sentencing for a different drug trafficking case.

“This sentencing serves as a reminder to the American public that the FBI is committed to combating cyber threats with its world-class capabilities and enduring law enforcement partnerships”, stated Special Agent in Charge David Walker of the FBI Tampa Field Office. “Our cyber task forces work vigorously to expose the cyber adversaries preying on United States citizens and bring them to justice.”