LockBit ransomware affiliate arrested in Arizona

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has announced that a 20-year-old Russian national has been arrested in Arizona and charged for deploying LockBit ransomware on the networks of victims in the United States and abroad.

Ruslan Magomedovich Astamirov, from the Chechen Republic, allegedly targeted computer systems in the United States, Asia, Europe and Africa between August 2020 and March 2023.

Astamirov is the third individual charged in connection with the LockBit ransomware campaign within the past seven months.

In November 2022, the Department announced charges against Mikhail Vasiliev who is currently detained in Canada for extradition.

In May 2023, Mikhail Pavlovich Matveev was also charged for his alleged involvement in deploying LockBit, Babuk, and Hive ransomware in attacks targeting organizations within and outside the United States.

According to the criminal complaint, the Russian national is accused of directly executing at least five attacks against victims in the US and abroad.

Astamirov allegedly controlled various online accounts to deploy LockBit ransomware and communicate with victims. Law enforcement agencies reportedly traced a portion of a victim’s ransom payment to a virtual currency address under Astamirov’s control.

He has been charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to intentionally damage protected computers and transmit ransom demands. If convicted, he might face up to 20 years in prison for the first charge and up to five years for the second.

The charges also carry the possibility of fines up to $250,000 or double the financial gain or loss resulting from the offense, whichever is higher.

FBI deputy director, Paul Abbate stated that they in collaboration with the federal and international partners, are fully committed to the permanent dismantlement of these types of ransomware campaigns that intentionally target people and private sector partners.

The LockBit ransomware gang was first detected in January 2020 and has caused over 1400 global attacks, resulting in ransom demands exceeding $10m.

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