German police said Monday that they have disrupted an international cybercrime gang that has been blackmailing large companies and institutions for years, raking in millions of euros.
Working with law enforcement partners including Europol, the FBI, and authorities in Ukraine, police in Duesseldorf said they were able to identify 11 individuals linked to a group that has operated in various guises since at least 2010. In recent years it has gone by the names Indrik Spider, Double Spider, and Grief.
Among its most prominent victims were Britain's National Health Service and Duesseldorf University Hospital, whose computers were infected with a type of ransomware known as DoppelPaymer in 2020.
A woman who needed urgent treatment died after she had to be taken to another city for treatment.
Dirk Kunze, who heads the cybercrime department with North Rhine-Westphalia state police, said at least 601 victims have been identified worldwide, including 37 in Germany.
Europol said victims in the United States paid out at least 40 million euros ($42.5 million) to the gang between May 2019 and March 2021 to release important data that was electronically locked using the malware.
The group specialized in “big game hunting," said Kunze, and ran a professional recruitment operation, luring new members with the promise of paid vacation and asking applicants to submit references for past cybercrimes.
He said police conducted simultaneous raids in Germany and Ukraine on Feb. 28, seizing evidence and detaining several suspects.
Three further suspects couldn't be apprehended as they were beyond the reach of European law enforcement, Kunze said.
German police identified the fugitives as Russian citizens Igor Turashev, 41, and Irinia Zemlyanikina, 36, and 31-year-old Igor Garshin, who was born in Russia but whose nationality wasn't immediately known.