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Ontario man arrested, awaiting U.S. extradition for alleged global ransomware crimes

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A Russian-Canadian man from Ontario is in police custody and awaiting extradition to the United States for his alleged participation in a global ransomware campaign, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Mikhail Vasiliev, a 33-year-old dual Russian and Canadian national from Bradford, Ont., is charged with conspiracy to intentionally damage protected computers and to transmit ransom demands in connection with his alleged role in the LockBit global ransomware scheme, the department said in a press release.

LockBit is a ransomware variant that has made at least $100 million in ransom demands and extracted tens of millions of dollars in actual payments from victims, according to a court document filed in the District of New Jersey. It first appeared as early as January 2020 and members of the conspiracy have since executed at least 1,000 LockBit attacks against victims in the U.S. and around the world, the document alleged.

Ransomware is a type of malware used by cybercriminals to encrypt data stored on a victim’s computer to render it inaccessible or unusable, transmit that data to a remote computer, or both. After a ransomware attack, perpetrators typically demand a ransom payment from the victim and threaten to publish, sell or prevent access to the stolen data if the money is not paid.

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“In many instances, LockBit perpetrators have posted highly confidential and sensitive data stolen from LockBit victims to a publicly available website under their ownership and control,” Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Matthew Haddad wrote in the criminal complaint. “In this way, LockBit has become one of the most active and destructive ransomware variants in the world.”

The document said the FBI began looking into LockBit around March 2020 and concluded that Vasiliev, who faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted, is an alleged member of the LockBit conspiracy. No contact information for Vasiliev’s legal representatives was immediately available on Thursday.

The criminal complaint against Vasiliev says Canadian police officers searched his Bradford home in August, where they discovered a file containing a list of alleged prospective or previous cybercrime victims.

Also discovered in the search were screenshots of messages discussing topics related to the LockBit campaign, a text file including instructions to deploy a LockBit program against a computer and usernames and passwords for various platforms belonging to employees of a Canadian LockBit victim, documents show.

The complaint further reveals that Vasiliev’s home was raided again on Oct. 26, and upon entering, “Canadian law enforcement discovered Vasiliev sitting in the garage at a table with a laptop, which he was unable to lock before being restrained.”

Investigators found multiple tabs open on the laptop, including one pointing to a site named “LockBit LOGIN”  with a LockBit logo and a login screen hosted at a dark web domain, the document alleged.

It further alleged Canadian law enforcement found a Bitcoin wallet address in Vasiliev’s home during the October raid, which led them to discover that the wallet had received a Bitcoin payment from funds originating from a ransom payment made six hours earlier by a confirmed LockBit victim.

Vasiliev’s arrest is the result of a more than two-and-a-half year investigation into LockBit and more than a decade of experience between FBI agents, Justice Department prosecutors and international partners in dismantling cyber threats, said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in a news release.

“Let this be yet another warning to ransomware actors: working with partners around the world, the Department of Justice will continue to disrupt cyber threats and hold perpetrators to account,” Monaco said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Tyler Griffin, The Canadian Press

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St-Onge urges provinces to accelerate efforts to make sports safer for athletes

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Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge says ending abuse in sports will require complaints processes that include provincial-level athletes, not just national ones.

St-Onge and provincial sports ministers will meet during the Canada Games in mid-February where their agenda will include the ongoing effort to address widespread allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in sports.

She says she asked the provincial ministers at an August meeting to look at joining the new federal sport integrity process or creating their own.

The national sports integrity commissioner can only investigate allegations of abuse from athletes at the national level.

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But St-Onge says the vast majority of athletes aren’t in that category and only Quebec has its own sports integrity office capable of receiving and investigating complaints.

The national sport integrity office officially began its work last June and has since received 48 complaints from athletes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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Justice is a Privilege Reserved for the Few

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History is full of examples showing us that Justice is a privilege reserved for the few, the wealthy, politically and financially connected, in fact, those of the right colour or race depending on where and when this justice was to be dealt with. Justice must be earnt, and it expends a colossal cost. What do I mean?

When a justice system demands proof of your innocence, while viewing the accused as guilty until that proof surfaces, the system of justice seems to be blind to all but those with the ability to hire known lawyers and a defense team to point out any misunderstandings that arise. A Black Man with many priors stands before a judge, accused of violent crimes. Will such a man have the ability to raise money to get out of jail and hire a powerful legal team? If he is a financially well-off man perhaps, but if he is an “Average Joe”, the justice system swallows him up, incarcerating him while he waits for his trial, and possible conviction. While the justice system is supposed to be blind to financial, sexist, and racial coding, the statistics show White men often walk, and Black-Hispanic and men of color often do not. Don’t think so?

America’s Justice system has a huge penal population, well into the millions of citizens in public and private prisons across the land. According to Scientific America, 71% of those imprisoned are not white. So do you think these men and women got there because of their choices or did the system help to decide that while whites can be either excused, rehabilitated or found not endangering the greater society, “the others” are threats to the nation’s security and population?

White privilege is still prevalent within our system, with financial privilege a close second.

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The World was white, but now its really black(non-white)
Justice for all is never achieved, just verbatim.
What can justice do for the lowly man
while jails fill and are built anew continually?

When you are seen as an outsider always,
and the precious few escape societies’ hungry grasp.
Justice for all is the cry we all hear these days,
While the policeman stamps your future out at last.

Martin L says the Black Persons going to win this war,
and a war of attrition it truly has been.
Justice is a privileged and socially mobile thing,
leaving the many to pray to the spirit of Tyre Nichols,
asking what the hell can we do???

I walked through an airport recently with no problem and no questioning. Customs and border officers were busy getting into the face of many non-white travelers. To this very day, a non-white person flying anywhere with a long beard, and dressed like a Muslim could get you unwelcomed trouble. Being different will always create difficulties. Being out of your place in another financial-ethnic society will be a challenge. Race, financial and political privilege will forever be with us. The powerful will always be able to dance around the justice system’s rules and regulations. Why? Well, the justice system is an exclusive club, filled with lawyers and police. The administrators and enforcers of the system. Some other form of the judicial system is needed, with a firm root in community equality. Can our Justice System be truly blind to all influencers, but the laws of the land? Can victims of crime receive true justice, retribution in kind for the offenses carried out by criminals against them?

” In the final analysis, true justice is not a matter of courts and law books, but of a commitment in each of us to liberty and mutual respect”(Jimmy Carter). Mutual respect of all actors in the play known as the Justice System, influenced, manipulated, and written by lawyers and academics. God help us.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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By the numbers for British Columbia’s overdose crisis

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British Columbia’s chief coroner released overdose figures for 2022, showing 2,272 residents died from toxic drugs last year. Lisa Lapointe says drug toxicity remains the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C., and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.

Here are some of the numbers connected to the overdose crisis:

189: Average number of deaths per month last year.

6.2: Average deaths per day.

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At least 11,171: Deaths attributed to drug toxicity since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016.

70: Percentage of the dead between 30 and 59 years old.

79: Percentage of those who died who were male.

65: Children and youth who have died in the last two years.

82: Percentage of the deaths where the toxic opioid fentanyl was involved.

73,000: People in B.C. who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder.

8.8: The rate that First Nations women are dying, is a multiple of the general population’s rate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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