More than 5,000 people in Canada fell victim to the ransomware known as Cryptolocker, with potential losses close to 1.5 million dollars, the RCMP said Monday.
The Quebec RCMP Integrated Technological Crime Unit said it worked with law enforcement agencies and telecommunications companies as part of an international crackdown to disrupt the 10 different computer servers used by a European-based band of hackers.
Two of the servers involved in the crackdown were located in Montreal.
Cryptolocker is a form of malware that will lock users out of computers until a “ransom” payment is made.
Authorities say the hackers implanted viruses on computers around the world, allowing them to seize customer bank information and steal more than $100 million from businesses and consumers.
U.S. authorities said one scheme infected computers with malicious software that captured bank account numbers and passwords, then used that information to secretly divert millions of dollars from victims’ bank accounts to themselves.
In another scheme, victims were locked out of their own computers by the criminal software, which demanded ransom payments of several hundred dollars in order to relinquish control.
The case is unrelated to the recently unsealed cyber-espionage indictment of five Chinese army hackers accused of stealing trade secrets from American firms using another type of software known as BlackShades.
The RCMP was also involved in that investigation, announcing May 19 that Canadian police had raided homes in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec.
Though those cyber-attacks relied on similar tactics – including sending emails to unsuspecting victims with links that installed malware – the hackers in the Chinese case, unlike this one, were government officials.