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UK Man Jailed for Porn Site Ransomware Scheme

An Essex man has been jailed for over six years for his part in a global, multimillion-pound ransomware conspiracy.

Zain Qaiser, 24, from Barking, was part of a Russian-speaking organized crime group believed to be linked to the Lurk Group that is thought to have created infamous exploit kit Angler.

Under the online moniker K!NG he is said to have posed as legitimate online advertising agencies in order to buy ad space for pornographic websites.

These ads were then seeded with malware, infecting users who clicked with Angler and other threats designed to exploit vulnerabilities on their machine.

One of the payloads delivered to victims was notorious ransomware Reveton. This typically locks a user’s screen before displaying a message from the ‘police’ or ‘government’ claiming an offence has been committed and the victim must pay a fine of $300-$1000 to unlock their device.

Payment was made by victims in cryptocurrency and the funds would then be laundered internationally — highlighting the global reach of the gang and its sophistication. One member in the US transferred ransom funds onto pre-loaded credit cards in fake identities then withdrew the cash, changed it back to crypto-currency and transferred to Qaiser, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The Essex man is said to have used a variety of fake identities and documents, including fake passports, to buy new ad space. When some of the online ad agencies suspected wrongdoing, he DDoS-ed them, threatening “child porn spam abuses.”

Qaiser operated from 2012 until he was arrested in December 2018, making as much as £700,000 and costing the companies he defrauded half a million pounds in lost revenue and mitigation.

He admitted 11 offences, including blackmail, fraud, money laundering and computer misuse, and was jailed at Kingston Crown Court.

NCA senior investigating officer, Nigel Leary, described Qaiser’s accomplices as “one of the most sophisticated, serious and organised cybercrime groups” the NCA has ever investigated.

“Zain Qaiser was an integral part of this organised crime group generating millions of pounds in ransom payments by blackmailing countless victims and threatening them with bogus police investigations,” he added.

“In addition, when Qaiser’s criminal enterprise was frustrated by diligent members of the online advertising community, he retaliated causing misery and hundreds of thousands of pounds in financial losses.”

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