DOJ charges Venezuelan programmer behind ‘Thanos’ ransomware
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DOJ charges Venezuelan programmer behind ‘Thanos’ ransomware

The US Department of Justice Monday charged 55-year-old Venezuelan cardiologist Moises Luis Zagala Gonzalez with attempted computer intrusions and conspiracy to commit computer intrusions.

According to authorities, Zagala taught himself programming and designed ransomware tools. Ransomware is “malicious software that cybercriminals use to extort money from companies, nonprofits and other institutions, by encrypting those files and then demanding a ransom for the decryption keys.”

Breon Peace, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, said the charges “stem from Zagala’s use and sale of ransomware, as well as his extensive support of, and profit sharing arrangements with, the cybercriminals who used his ransomware programs.” The criminal complaint against Zagala cites activity from as early as 2019. That year, Zagala launched “Thanos,” a tool that allowed users to design new ransomware to use or sell. Zagala also allegedly bragged that a government-backed Iranian hacking group used his software to attack Israeli companies.

If convicted, Zagala could face up to five years in prison for attempted computer intrusion and five years for conspiracy to commit computer intrusions.