$5m Bounty For Russian Hacker

The US State Department in collaboration with the US Department of Justice and the FBI are offering an unprecedented $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of a Russian hacker named Maksim Yakubets (pictured).  The Lamborghini-driving Moscow hacker who called his operation Evil Corp and has ties to the FSB Russian intelligence service was indicted by US authorities on Thursday for the cybertheft of tens of millions of dollars.

This hacker is allegedly responsible for stealing tens of millions of dollars from banks and consumers over the past decade. In a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Nebraska, the US has charged Moscow-based Yakubets of running the notorious Zeus banking malware operation since at least 2009. 

Yakubets and multiple co-conspirators are alleged to have installed Zeus on thousands of business computers and captured information that allowed them to later log into online banking accounts belonging to the victims and initiate fraudulent wire transfers.

Yakubets and other members of his group attempted to steal a staggering $220 million using Zeus and ending up netting at least $70 million from victim bank accounts. 

Among the numerous organisations that were victimised in the Zeus campaign were Bank of America, Bank of Albuquerque, Key Bank, Bullitt County Fiscal Court, GenLabs, and United Dairy. US Federal authorities separately also charged Yakubets and another Russian national, Igor Turashev, 38, with stealing and attempting to steal money from online bank accounts belonging to thousands of individuals and businesses using Bugat - aka Dridex - malware.

The Dridex campaign began around 2009, and as with the Zeus scheme, resulted in millions of dollars being siphoned out of the online bank accounts of consumers and businesses. 

A representative list of victims included at least two banks and four companies. Attacks involving Dridex continued until as recently as March 2019, the DoJ said in a statement announcing the indictment.

"For over a decade, Maksim Yakubets and Igor Turashev led one of the most sophisticated transnational cybercrime syndicates in the world," said US Attorney Scott Brad of Western District of Pennsylvania.

The Dridex operation was one of the most widespread malware campaigns the Justice Department has ever encountered, he added.

Yakubets is alleged to have managed the development, distribution, and maintenance of Dridex and also oversaw the actual financial theft and the use of money mules to receive wire transfers and ACH payments. Turashev served as the systems administrator and was in charge of Dridex botnet operations. NPR on Thursday quoted senior Treasury Department officials describing Yakubets as also working separately for Russia's domestic intelligence agency the Federal Security Service (FSB).

"Maksim Yakubets allegedly has engaged in a decade-long cybercrime spree that deployed two of the most damaging pieces of financial malware ever used and resulted in tens of millions of dollars of losses to victims worldwide," said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski. 

The $5 million reward for his arrest or conviction is the largest ever the US government has offered in connection with a cybercrime.

Tens of Millions in Losses
According to charging documents unsealed recently in connection with both indictments, Yakubets, Turashev, and others involved in the Dridex campaign infected systems by tricking victims into opening malicious attachments or clicking on rogue links in phishing emails.  They used the malware to collect usernames and passwords to bank accounts either via keystroke logging or by hijacking computer sessions and directing victims to spoofed bank login pages. 
The stolen credentials were then used to initiate fraudulent wire transfers to overseas accounts and to an extensive network of money mules in the US.

Yakubets and Turashev were charged in Pittsburgh and a parallel indictment in Lincoln, Nebraska with multiple counts of conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud and bank fraud. Both men are believed to be in Russia, and face possible extradition to the United States if they are arrested in other countries.

FBI:       Dept of Justice:        Dark Reading:        SCMP:     Image: FBI

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