US Government Accuses Venezuelan Doctor of Creating and Selling Ransomware Used by Hackers

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US Government Accuses Venezuelan Doctor of Creating and Selling Ransomware Used by Hackers For Hannah Perez

Cardiologist Moisés Luis Zagala González, a resident of Ciudad Bolívar, was accused of selling malware used by hackers in ransomware attacks.


A Franco-Venezuelan doctor has been listed by US authorities as the mastermind behind malicious software used by hackers to hijack computer data and extort money from its owners.

New York prosecutors this week filed criminal charges against Moisés Luis Zagala González, a 55-year-old cardiologist residing in Venezuela, for allegedly designing ransomware and selling it to cybercriminal organizations. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) reported on the allegations in a release Monday.

DOJ agents in the report accused Zagala of running an elaborate malicious cyber business, which gave organizations in the Middle East the tools to carry out high-profile hacking attacks. All while still seeing patients. The authorities allege that Zagala’s product it was even used by an Iranian state-sponsored hacking group.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, commented on the matter in the statement:

The multitasking doctor is alleged to have treated patients, created and named his cyber tool after death, profited from a global ransomware ecosystem where he sold the tools to carry out ransomware attacks, trained attackers on how to extort money from victims, and then boasted of successful attacks, including by malicious actors associated with the government of Iran.

Cybercrime business included Bitcoin

According to the report, Zagala, who allegedly uses the pseudonyms “Nosophoros“, “Aesculapius” and “Nebuchadnezzar”, built at the end of 2019 a tool called “Thanos“, a type of ransomware as a service (RaaS) that allowed its users to create and deploy their own ransomware variants, as explained tech crunch.

The agents assured that the Venezuelan charged for the sale of the malicious products”in both fiat currency and cryptocurrency, including Monero and Bitcoin“.

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It should be noted that ransomware is a type of computer attack based on malicious software that blocks access to data and computer networks until a ransom is paid. The hackers they often extort money from their victims and request payments in digital currencies because these can be more difficult to trace than other payment methods.

In addition to “Thanos“, the doctor was also accused of previously creating”Jigsawv. two“, a ransomware tool that included the so-called “doomsday accountant” that recorded how many times the victims had tried to remove the malware.

According to the report, the effectiveness of Zagala’s products earned his business a good reputation among hackers. Based on various reviews on online forums, US agents claimed that Zagala products could “infect a network of approximately 3,000 computers“. They also quoted a user who wrote in Russian that he had obtained “good earnings” after a month of using the ransomware tools.

The DOJ indicated that it relied on confidential informants within the cybercrime world to build the case. They also indicated that the FBI was able to identify Zagala after interviewing a relative whose account PayPal was used to receive illicit profits.

Doctor and hacker: an unusual profile

The case against Zagala is curious and unusual due to certain peculiarities of the accused, such as his profession and age, which is above that of the typical cybercriminal suspect, as pointed out by CNN. It also contradicts the stereotype of malicious actors coming from Eastern Europe and Russia. Zagala reportedly resides in Ciudad Bolívar, located in southeastern Venezuela.

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The authorities, who assure that Zagala taught himself to program computers, also extended the accusations, indicating that the doctor had also trained hackers on the use of his products. “We allege that Zagala not only created and sold ransomware products to hackers, but also trained them in their use.Michael Driscoll, deputy director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, said in the statement.

In accordance with tech crunchthe doctor now faces up to 10 years in prison for attempted computer intrusion and conspiracy charges, if he is actually brought to justice in the United States.

The charges add to the latest efforts by US federal agencies to curb the rising tide of ransomware attacks, an issue the Joe Biden administration has called a priority.

The fight against ransomware is one of the main priorities of the Department of Justice and this Office of the Attorney General. If you benefit from ransomware, we will find you and disrupt your malicious operations“, added Peace on this line.

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Article by Hannah Estefanía Pérez / DailyBitcoin

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