U.S. charges two Russians in international hacking, malware conspiracy
By Jonathan Stempel and Raphael Satter
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two Russian residents have been criminally charged in the United States over an alleged multi-year, international scheme to steal money and property by using malware to hack into computers, according to an indictment made public on Thursday.
Maksim Yakubets was accused of being the leader of a group of conspirators involved with Bugat malware and botnet, while his close associate Igor Turashev allegedly handled various functions for the conspiracy, the indictment said.
The indictment identifies Yakubets as one of the earliest users of a family of malicious software tools called Bugat — better known as Dridex — which has been bedeviling American banks and businesses for more than eight years.
Cybersecurity experts say the malware, which first appeared in late 2011, is responsible for millions of dollars in damages worldwide. Experts have long speculated that the malware is the brainchild of a Russian hacking group.
The conspiracy allegedly began around November 2011, and several entities – including a school, an oil firm, First Commmonwealth Bank – were among the defendants’ victims, according to the indictment filed with the federal court in Pittsburgh. Two of the transactions were processed through Citibank in New York, the indictment says.
The indictment is dated Nov. 12 but was unsealed on Thursday.
U.S. and British authorities are expected later Thursday to detail charges against a Russian national over allegations of computer hacking and bank fraud schemes, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement.
That announcement characterized the Russian national as being “allegedly responsible for two of the worst computer hacking and bank fraud schemes of the past decade.”
Malware is a software program designed to gather sensitive information, such as passwords and bank account numbers, from private computers by installing viruses and other malicious programs.
Spokespeople for First Commonwealth Bank and Citibank did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Susan Heavy, Lisa Lambert and Jonathan Stempel; additional reporting by Raphael Satter Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Nick Zieminski)