FBI Tampa
Public Affairs Officer Andrea Aprea
(813) 253-1033
March 15, 2022

FBI Tampa Asking Businesses to Bolster Defenses Against Ransomware

Request Follows Recent Extradition of a Foreign Ransomware Threat Actor

TAMPA, FL—Combating cybercrime, especially ransomware schemes, is one of the FBI’s highest priorities. The FBI Tampa Cyber Crime Task Force is reminding public and private sector businesses to take the necessary steps to minimize ransomware risks.

This follows the extradition last week of Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, 34, of Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. He’s been indicted in the Middle District of Florida with crimes relating to his alleged participation in a sophisticated form of ransomware known as NetWalker. Netwalker ransomware has targeted dozens of victims across the nation, including companies, hospitals, law enforcement, school districts, colleges, and universities. The indictment alleges the United States intends to forfeit more than $27 million, which is alleged to be traceable to proceeds of the offenses.

“This extradition demonstrates the FBI’s resolve to dismantle ransomware schemes and expose the cybercriminals responsible wherever they may reside,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Field Office Sanjay Virmani. “This also serves as an opportunity to encourage our public and private sector business partners to take the necessary steps to strengthen cyber defenses.”

Some best practices to follow include:

  • Establish a relationship with your local FBI field office if you haven’t done so already
  • Backup your data, system images, and configurations, test your backups, and keep the backups offline
  • Utilize multi-factor authentication
  • Update and patch systems
  • Make sure your security solutions are up to date
  • Review and exercise your incident response plan

The FBI does not encourage paying a ransom to criminal actors. Paying a ransom may embolden adversaries to target additional organizations, encourage other cybercriminals to engage in ransomware, and/or fund illicit activities. Paying the ransom also does not guarantee the victim’s files will be recovered.

If you are a victim of ransomware, you can file a complaint with law enforcement or report incidents by:

  • Contacting the FBI Tampa Field Office at 813-253-1000
  • Filing a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) www.ic3.gov
  • Contacting CyWatch 24/7 support at 1-855-292-3937

Reporting a ransomware attack provides investigators with the critical information they need to track ransomware attackers, hold them accountable under U.S. law, and prevent future attacks.