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Ottawa man charged after two-year investigation into international ransomware attacks

An Ottawa man has been charged following a nearly two-year investigation into several ransomware attacks on targets in Canada and the U.S.

The cybercrime investigation started when the Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted Ontario Provincial Police in January 2020 about ransomware attacks based in Canada.

Police say they determined one person was responsible for numerous ransomware attacks affecting businesses, government agencies and private individuals throughout Canada as well as cyber-related offenses in the U.S.

Police said Tuesday that Matthew Philbert, 31, of Ottawa has been charged with fraud, unauthorized use of a computer, and possession of a device to obtain unauthorized use of a computer system or to commit mischief.

Philbert has also been charged in the U.S., according to a federal indictment unsealed on Tuesday.

The indictment alleges that Philbert conspired with others to damage computers, "and in the course of that conspiracy did damage a computer belonging to the State of Alaska in April 2018."

He is facing one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with computers, and one count of fraud and related activity in connection with computers.

In the Canadian investigation, OPP say they seized evidence including desktop and laptop computers, a tablet, several hard drives and cell phones, a Bitcoin seed phrase and blank cards with magnetic stripes.

The accused is being held in custody pending further court appearances, police said. He was arrested on Nov. 30, but police announced the charges on Tuesday.

"Cyber criminals are opportunistic and will target any business or individual they identify as vulnerable,” OPP deputy commissioner Chuck Cox said in a news release. “The OPP continues to demonstrate its ability to seamlessly collaborate on integrated police investigations to combat cybercrimes and other illegal activities.”

Along with the FBI probe, the RCMP and Europol helped the OPP with its 23-month investigation.

The OPP says it has seen a 140 per cent increase in reported cybercrime offences since 2019. Top Stories

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