The graphic designer at the heart of the recent spate of ‘laptop killer’ ransomware attacks has been arrested in Britain after authorities found traces of the malware he had developed to infect machines.
The company, named Blackbird, has already been suspended by a UK government agency for its involvement in the attacks, which have seen more than 6,000 computers compromised.
Blackbird’s co-founder, David Witherspoon, is believed to be the person behind the ransomware, which has also caused the loss of personal data on more than a thousand users in Britain.
It was reported that a UK court had granted a temporary injunction against Withersons company in May, ordering it to cease and desist from further use of the software for more than three years.
The judge added that it was “unreasonable” to expect Withersworsons company to continue to work with any cybercrime organizations and had issued the injunction as a “last resort”.
“The court was satisfied that the defendant was acting in the interests of justice,” the judge wrote.
“It is accordingly satisfied that it will not be issuing a further injunction, which would have applied the same level of protection to the defendant’s activities as it has applied to the company.”
The court said the company was “clearly aware of the threat” posed by the ransomware and that it had “made efforts to avoid the spread of the infection”.
Witherspoons’ arrest comes as the UK government and major tech firms are working on new ways to fight ransomware attacks.
The government has announced plans to build a network of “cybercrime centres” where people can share information about ransomware attacks and to help businesses recover from ransomware attacks that may have damaged their networks.
The UK government is also launching a new cybercrime prevention scheme called Operation Sovereign Borders, which is aimed at helping businesses and government agencies fight ransomware and other cyber attacks.
According to a statement from the Home Office, the government will build “a network of cybercrime centres to help people identify and tackle cybercrime and other crime that is harming the UK”.
The initiative aims to “provide support to businesses and other organisations that are targeted by cybercriminals and their suppliers”.
More than 700 organisations have already signed up for the scheme, with some more than half of those firms also sharing information about cybercrime.
The Home Office said the scheme would provide advice on how to protect themselves and their staff from cybercrime, as well as help businesses and others “to identify cybercrimins in the public sector and to reduce the damage they cause to UK businesses and the public.”
It also plans to use a “digital wallet” to give businesses a way to store their personal information securely and access them from anywhere in the world, where they can then share their information with the authorities.
The government has also created a team of cybercriminologists to develop new ways of fighting ransomware, the statement said.
The scheme will work by “sharing cyber-criminals’ techniques and techniques developed by other criminal organisations and using that information to help identify and prosecute cybercrimnators,” the statement added.
Withersoons arrest comes just weeks after the British government announced it was banning all non-essential travel for the next few weeks to combat ransomware attacks in the UK.
It said that flights and rail services were to remain open for now.
However, officials said the government would be updating the list of essential travel items and services to reflect the current ransomware threat.