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Ryuk ransomware has given its creators a huge pay day

(Image credit: Image Credit: WK1003Mike / Shutterstock )

Operators of Ryuk, one of the world's most popular ransomware (opens in new tab)variants, have extorted more than $150 million from victims.

This is according to a report published by cybersecurity firms Advanced Intelligence and HYAS, which claims that a total of 61 Bitcoin addresses associated with Ryuk operators have been identified.

"Ryuk receives a significant amount of their ransom payments from a well-known broker that makes payments on behalf of the ransomware victims," the report reads. "These payments sometimes amount to millions of dollars and typically run in the hundreds of thousands range."

According to a ZDNet report (opens in new tab), the criminals either use the money to fund new criminal campaigns, or simply cash out.

Cashing out, however, isn’t that easy, as selling cryptocurrencies on exchanges has become more difficult thanks to AML (anti-money laundering) and KYC (know your customer) legislation.

Criminals are known to use smaller exchanges to sell cryptocurrencies, some of which have weaker KYC enforcement. Ryuk operators, on the other hand,have allegedly used two of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency exchanges: Binance and Huobi. Researchers say they most likely used stolen identities to pass KYC tests.

Even though Ryuk is considered the most lucrative ransomware, it’s far from being the only strain out there. REvil, Maze, and Egregor have also been very active, targeting hundreds of companies.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.