Bad Actors Include Russian Crime Oligarchs: Wosar Speaks Out

April 12, 2019

Hollywood romanticizes computer hacking and other digital crimes. There is some truth to what happens on the screen, but the action is usually more downbeat and usually does not keep the bad actors at the edge of their seats. While the bad actors get a lot of screen time, the good guys, those who protect the average person, from cyber attacks rarely get praised. The BBC took the time to praise one digital hero’s actions in the article, “Hated And Hunted.”

Perhaps the most vicious type of malware is ransomware. Ransomware is a computer virus that once downloaded onto a computer, it scrambles all of the data and delivers a ransom note stating the user must pay a certain amount of money or all of their data will be deleted. Fabian Wosar is a good actor, because he understands the virus code and knows how to hack the hacker. In other words, he knows how to outsmart the hackers and beat them at their own game. The hackers are so upset with Wosar that they actually write mean notes to him in their virus code.

Wosar is an introverted individual, who loves to design anti-virus code for his cyber security company, Emsisoft. He spends hours working and often binges long hours at his job, often giving away his ant-ransomware away for free. Wosar compares writing code to writing a novel and how he can tell who wrote specific code based on individual styles. He also believes that he stopped over 100 different cyber gangs from their illegal activities.

Ransomware is one of the most profitable cyber crimes and its perpetrators can evade authorities for years, especially if they are smart about it. Ransomware victims often pay hundreds of thousands of dollars and pounds to the criminals, especially if they decide paying the ransom is considered cheaper than replacing a system. Cyber criminals are also quite intimidating:

The most successful cyber-crime gangs are run like mafia organizations with specific structures and divisions of labor.There are the virus coders, the money launderers, the protection heavies and the bosses who decide on targets and sometimes funnel the money into other, potentially more serious, criminal enterprises.Catching these gangs is extremely challenging. One of the most prolific recent ransomware gangs, responsible for two major ransomware families – CTB-Locker and Cerber – made an estimated $27m and eluded police for years.It took a global police operation involving the FBI, the UK’s National Crime Agency, and Romanian and Dutch investigators to bring them down. In December 2017, five arrests were made in Romania.

Wosar keeps his identity hidden and moves around to keep himself safe. While he does enjoy his work, he does suffer from health problems due to his sedentary lifestyle and might get a dog to force himself outside. Outside, however, may pose risks.

Whitney Grace, April 12, 2019

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