back to article Well, well, well. Crime does pay: Ransomware creeps let off with community service

Two men who masterminded various Coinvault ransomware infections will carry out 240 hours of community service as punishment for screwing over 1,200 computers and banking around €10,000 (£9k, $12k) in profit. The sentence was handed down by a court in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, where it was ruled brothers Melvin and Dennis …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In this Empire...

    240 hours of community service as punishment

    Assigned to help out in Yemen.

  2. AndyS

    Actually, this seems proportionate

    Yes, they caused a whole lot of damage, but

    1. They weren't violent, and

    2. They were young, first-time offenders with a good prospect of rehabilitation.

    Given those, and assuming the aim of the justice system is to prevent future crimes and rehabilitate convicted criminals, jail time seems inappropriate.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Actually, this seems proportionate

      @AndyS: I tend to agree with you.

      In this case, it seems that all a custodial sentence would have done would be to help to turn them into hardcore criminals and ruin any prospect of a future away from crime.

      It seems that too often we forget the idea of rehabilitation and prefer the concept of revenge.

    2. Edwin

      Re: Actually, this seems proportionate

      Not sure I agree. A year is disproportionate but six weeks of community service plus perhaps 30 days behind bars would seem more appropriate.

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Actually, this seems proportionate

      Its a lot of victims though. The mindless thug who beats the shit out innocent pub goers at closing time only hurts one person at a time (i'd be happy to see him do some time )

      These boys "assaulted" 14000 people. Levels ranging from

      - oh ill restore my files from backup

      - didnt want anything on that pc anyway

      - dammit lost the last years photos again


      - there goes my Thesis / years of family photos / all my geneology documents

      -all the finance records for my business

      etc etc, skies the limit

      and just because decryption keys were eventually found , dosent mean people hadnt reformatted by then.

      I take your point about the system being to prevent and rehab. Jail may have introduced them to people who would develop their talents. 240 hours Community service seems low though. Its 6 weeks of full time work.

  3. et tu, brute?

    "notoriously difficult language"

    Not that difficult... I managed to learn it as a toddler!

    English on the other hand...

    1. CloudWrangler

      Re: "notoriously difficult language"

      This would imply that to a typical English speaker, any language is notoriously difficult to learn. Dutch is a category I language for English speakers, i.e. easiest to learn: Language difficulty rankings

      1. MonkeyCee

        Re: "notoriously difficult language"

        As someone learning Dutch*, I'd also suggest it's not too hard a language to learn for an English speaker. There's an extra 3-4 sounds, which is about the only tricky part.

        Since every Dutch region/town/village has it's own dialect, standard Dutch is very carefully organised. A words spelling indicates exactly how it's pronounced, which for a dyslexic like myself is marvelous.

        There are also plenty of shared words (and word roots) with middle English and old Dutch being even closer. Plus a bunch of naval terms are Dutch in origin. Thus there are plenty of words that are familiar too.

        * thanks Brexit.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Can you live/work in Holland just using English?

          What's Holland like for English-only speaking tech workers in general... Any stories to share? Is it even necessary to learn Dutch etc? Is it true that contracts for buying a home etc, are in joint English / Dutch? Or no, once you leave the major cities there's far few English speakers and local knowledge of culture and custom is key... What's the cost of living like for tech workers too, because that feeds into everything else....

          1. Aqua Marina

            Re: Can you live/work in Holland just using English?

            I worked there for a few years and never needed to learn the language. Everyone I met spoke perfect English. There is 2 types of English accent over there. American and Manchester. Which accent you have depends on the TV programmes you watch. If you have an American accent then it’s because you watch US sitcoms. If you have a Manchester accent, it’s because you watch Coronation Street. The Northwest “Granada” ITV channel was shown over there.

            1. Dog Eatdog

              Re: Can you live/work in Holland just using English?

              In the days of VHF, the Dutch could pick up British TV channels from East Anglia.

          2. Chris Parsons Bronze badge

            Re: Can you live/work in Holland just using English?

            You'll manage with English, but you'll get far more out of it if you make the effort and learn the language. It's easy, apart from some pronunciation. Best place I've ever lived and regret leaving.

      2. tony2heads

        Re: "notoriously difficult language"

        I think Frisian is closer.

        1. stephanh

          Re: "notoriously difficult language"

          "I think Frisian is closer."

          Frisian and English are considered part of the North Sea Germanic, or Ingvaeonic, subgroup of West Germanic.

          Of course, English is unique among Germanic languages in that it took an enormous amount of vocabulary from (Norman) French and from Latin. And then Shakespeare came along and invented about 1700 of the most common English words.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: "notoriously difficult language"

        Dutch is a category I language for English speakers, i.e. easiest to learn

        I have a few issues with that site - they list Spanish, Italian and French (amongst others) as easy to learn because they are "closely related to English".

        Well, they are related - but certainly not closely. They are Indo-European languages (unlike Finnish and Hungarian) and that's where the relationship ends - they are Latinate languages, English is a Germanic language. From completely separate strands of Indo-European.. There are pleanty of loan-words from those languages in English but then that also applies to Arabic, Hebrew, Greek and Hindi.

        What they are are languages spoken geographically close to us and that are taught in our schools (I started French in primary school which is probably why I remember so much..).

      4. Teiwaz

        Re: "notoriously difficult language"

        Dutch is a category I language for English speakers, i.e. easiest to learn:

        Funnily enough, 'double dutch' is common english phrase is it not?

        Second language wise, the UK is probably at the bottom (I'll add Ireland to as well, as Irish is not and internationally useful second language IMO).

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: "notoriously difficult language"

      English on the other hand...

      Is well known as a language that's very easy to communicate in, but very difficult to learn properly.

      As can be seen from the standard of English in everyday use.

    3. Scroticus Canis

      Re: "notoriously difficult language"

      I lived in Holland for a year or so and found Dutch hard to learn because everyone just replied or talked to me in English as soon as they heard my accent! My period of living in France was the exact opposite of course.

      1. Martin

        Re: "notoriously difficult language"

        ...everyone just replied or talked to me in English as soon as they heard my accent!

        I used to know an English guy, who was married to a Dutch lady and lived in Holland. If he spoke Dutch to someone, and they answered him in English, he used to say politely (in Dutch) - "Sorry - is my Dutch not good enough for you?"

    4. Chris Parsons Bronze badge

      Re: "notoriously difficult language"

      And I learned it easily when I was working in Amsterdam.

  4. Edwin

    Another case...

    ...of legislation lagging behind reality. Sigh.

    Oh - and "notoriously difficult language"? No. The guttural aspects may be a bit challenging for english speakers, but Dutch itself isn't so hard. I would agree that the idiomatic aspects can be quite challenging though. IIRC, Dutch is unique in that it has something like 5000 swearwords, the majority of which are biological (including a rich selection of disease-related phrases)

    1. frank ly

      Re: Another case...

      Citation (and dictionary/thesaurus) needed; please.

      1. Wo

        Re: Another case...

        I live and work in the Netherlands. I've not heard anyone use it in RL however I am 100% sure (I have a Dutch hubby) that a lot of insults involve wishing cancer on the opponent...

        My colleagues generally swear in English as it is deemed less rude.

        Dutch is now my second language. I found learning it much harder than Spanish and French, and easier than German and Japanese. Pronunciation is by far the hardest part at first. You don't need Dutch in the Netherlands, but it does help if you're not going to be living in a fully expat world, and want to integrate more.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Another case...

      The guttural aspects may be a bit challenging for english speakers

      Although people who have learnt or spoken any Welsh or Gaidhlig won't have much problem with the gutturals..

  5. adam payne

    Two men who masterminded various Coinvault ransomware infections will carry out 240 hours of community service as punishment for screwing over 1,200 computers and banking around €10,000 (£9k, $12k) in profit.

    Not sure I agree with the sentence. Sends out a message of soft time if you get caught.

    They are criminals and their actions effected thousands of people.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      I hope they also had to pay back the 10k Euros.

    2. Nick Kew

      Depends where they get caught. If they'd travelled to the US, they might look anxiously at various foreigners, from Dmitri Sklyarov to Marcus Hutchins, NOT convicted of any such wrongdoing yet suffering harsher treatment.

  6. Christoph

    "be confident that not only will the decryption tool appear"

    Unless you get one of the really nasty ones which generate a new key for each victim and discard that key after a certain time.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      I wouldnt be confident at all , it only down to huge fkups on the part of the writers that have let tools be created in the past - like making it clear the key was generated from the pc name or something - without clues like that ,or capturing the authors you have no chance

  7. nuked

    'Co-operation with police'


  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Punishment in proportion.

    While I pretty much agree with no jail time I think the better sentence would have been to assign a number of C.S. hours for EACH proven incidence of infection. This should be a standard used by the courts, the more machines you infect / money you extort - the more you get. Even at 1 hour per infected machine, that would be a realistic punishment that would give them a lot of time to consider thier future behaviour.

    If that is the equivilence of a year (or more) of C.S. work spread over a long period it should help reinforce the message - besides which with less time on thier hands they may be slightly less inclined to reoffend. If it takes them several years of weekend work (assuming they have weekday jobs) to complete the sentence - then so be it.

    Until the courts start really inconveniencing these people the problem will persist it may not stop the hardened professional guys but just dissuading amatuers should help a little.

    1. stephanh

      Re: Punishment in proportion.

      "... the better sentence would have been to assign a number of C.S. hours for EACH proven incidence of infection."

      The 240 hours is in fact the maximum community service which can be given under Dutch law.

      Note that under Dutch law infecting multiple computers would be considered a single "strafbaar feit" ("punishable event"), hence limits apply to the whole punishment. This is the principle of the "meerdaadse samenloop".

      1. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

        Re: Punishment in proportion.


        "Wat een gedonder zeg!" ("What one thundering say")

        P.S. Someone else here said Dutch is easy because the words are pronounced exactly like you write them. I wonder how they would fare with that word "feit". Pronounced like "fate" but on paper it looks more like "fi-yit". And a "file" (a trafffic jam) is pronounced "feel-ih".

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very strange judicial decision

    It would appear that some folks in the judicial system lack an understanding of the damages created from digital crime. When we have script kiddies at the age of 13 causing great harm, it's silly to think that people aged 18 and 22 aren't adults who fully understand their criminal behavior and the punishment they should receive which includes prison time and at a minimum treble damages.

    Evidently crime does pay if you get a technically challenged judge who doesn't comprehend the damage imposed from digital crime. The whole point of punishment is to deter future crime and hold criminals accountable. 240 hours of public service is not in any way shape or form holding these crims responsible for their crimes - which is why this outrage is being reported by the media.

  10. Aodhhan


    If 18 or 22 years of age is too young to be held responsible for poor decisions, then we really need to raise the age for voting, drinking, driving, flying aircraft, etc. They weren't 12 to 14, so young my azz.

    Sure it wasn't violent... which is why you give them 1 or 2 years instead of 5-20 years.

    If they stole money from you, and you weren't able to feed your kids or make rent... you might think a bit differently. A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck. Losing 500 euros can really hit a family hard and cause undo stress... for a lot longer than 240 hours.

    I think the judges have loss touch with what it is like for the majority of people. Those who don't make 300K plus euros per year.

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