Man sentenced after purchasing hacking tools

Andrew Buck planned to hold computer users to ransom

A man who purchased ‘hacking tools’ on the dark web in an attempt to hold computer users to ransom and steal money has been sentenced.

Andrew Kevin Buck, of Sherwood Drive, Ollerton, was first interviewed in December 2017 after Cyber Crime detectives from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) carried out a warrant at a flat in Nottingham.

An external hard drive and a mobile phone were seized and, despite the data having been deleted, digital forensic specialists were able to recover a number of suspicious looking files.

Within those files was a type of ransomware that is sold on the dark web – an online marketplace favoured by criminals who use it anonymously to operate illegal enterprises, such as the sale of weapons, drugs and explicit images.

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Hackers infect computers with ransomware - considered to be one of the most malevolent and impactful of malware as victims find that the data on their device is encrypted and inaccessible - by sending out emails and text messages containing malicious links.

Once the link is clicked, the ransomware gets to work by restricting the computer system or the data stored within it.

All of this can be done without approval from the computer user. Once the computer is ‘locked’ by the hacker, the victim is then sent messages, demanding money in exchange for the release of the computer system and the private data stored on it.

Data downloaded from the 30-year-old’s mobile phone and hard drive uncovered a number of encrypted messages that mentioned ransomware, scams and exploits.

Thousands of personal credentials, such as email addresses and passwords, were also recovered from the Samsung phone, many of which he advertised for sale on the Dark Web which could have potentially been used by fraudsters.

Buck, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of making, supplying or obtaining articles for criminal use under the Computer Misuse Act and one count of possessing personal data for use in fraud. He was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday to a 12 month suspended sentence and 200 hours of unpaid work.

Detective Chief Inspector Ed McBryde-Wilding from EMSOU’s Cyber Crime Unit said:

“From the evidence we gathered, it is clear Buck made determined efforts to profit from either launching attacks himself, or helping other hackers do so.
“This isn’t just something he stumbled upon on the Internet; the ransomware Buck purchased came with a step-by-step guide on how to geographically identify potential targets.
"Offending of this kind, using ransomware in particular, has a proven impact on the public, causing considerable anxiety about making online transactions. Buck was seeking to involve others in similar offending and offered to provide ‘how to’ guide’s to enable them to maximise the impact of their offending.”

Hackers use fake messages as bait to lure you into clicking on the links within their scam email or text message.

If you get a suspicious looking, unsolicited email or message from a company or individual you don’t recognise, or if it has grammatical errors, asks you to download something or log in to your account, don’t click on any links. If it’s from a company you do recognise, but you’re still unsure, log-in via their website homepage instead.

If you think you may have been the victim of fraud or cyber-crime and incurred a financial loss or have been hacked as a result of responding to a phishing message, you should report this to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

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