Police raids 'target' 12 suspects in ransomware cases - Europol

FILE PHOTO: A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Twelve suspects believed to have mounted ransomware attacks against companies or infrastructure in 71 countries were "targeted" in raids in Ukraine and Switzerland, Europol said on Friday.

A European policing agency spokesperson declined to comment on whether any of the suspects was detained in the raids. The operation was the result of cooperation between law enforcement and judicial authorities in seven European countries and the United States.

Europol said the 12 suspects were believed to have mounted cyberattacks that affected 1,800 victims around the globe.

One of the firms believed to have been hit by the suspects in the case was metals maker Norsk Hydro ASA, which in 2019 suffered a ransomware attack that paralyzed parts of its production, Norwegian police said in a separate statement. The company refused to pay the hackers, it said at the time, but suffered losses amounting to tens of millions of dollars as a result of disruptions to its operations.

The other businesses that were allegedly hit by the ransomware demands were not named.

"The targeted suspects all had different roles in these professional, highly organized criminal organizations," Europol said in a statement, with some responsible for hacking and others for laundering proceeds via cryptocurrency.

During the raids police seized over $52,000 in cash, five luxury cars, and computer and phone equipment which are being examined to find evidence and new investigative leads, Europol said.

Authorities from Norway, France, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Germany, Britain, Switzerland and the United States were involved in the crackdown together with Europol and Eurojust, the European Union's agency for judicial cooperation.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, Toby Sterling and Terje Solsvik; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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