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Ransomware Designer Charged for Use and Sale of Ransomware

A criminal complaint was unsealed today charging Moises Luis Zagala Gonzalez (Zagala), also known as “Nosophoros,” “Aesculapius” and “Nebuchadnezzar,” a citizen of France and Venezuela who resides in Venezuela, with attempted computer intrusions and conspiracy to commit computer intrusions. Allegedly, Zagala created Thanos and Jigsaw ransomware and would sell the programs to other cybercriminals. Zagala would let individuals rent the software for a certain period of time and also created an affiliate program where users had access to the software in exchange for profits from attacks. Zagala, a cardiologist, taught himself computer programming. Law enforcement agents were able to identify Zagala after agents conducted a voluntary interview of one of his relatives residing in Florida and whose PayPal account was used by Zagala to receive illicit proceeds. Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York

Analyst Notes

If convicted, the defendant faces up to five years’ imprisonment for attempted computer intrusion, and five years’ imprisonment for conspiracy to commit computer intrusions. In order to protect themselves from ransomware attacks organizations should:

• Regularly back up data, air gap, and password protect backup copies offline.
• Ensure copies of critical data are not accessible for modification or deletion from the system where the data resides.
• Implement network segmentation.
• Implement a recovery plan to maintain and retain multiple copies of sensitive or proprietary
• data and servers in a physically separate, segmented, secure location (i.e., hard drive, storage device, the cloud).
• Install updates/patch operating systems, software, and firmware as soon as practical after they are released.
• Implement monitoring of security events on employee workstations and servers, with a 24/7 Security Operations Center to detect threats and respond quickly.
• Use multifactor authentication where possible.
• Use strong passwords and regularly change passwords to network systems and accounts,
• implementing the shortest acceptable timeframe for password changes.
• Avoid reusing passwords for multiple accounts.
• Focus on cyber security awareness and training.
• Regularly provide users with training on information security principles and techniques as well as overall emerging cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities.