Hackers indicted for 'most sophisticated computer fraud ever'

11 November 2009

Eight eastern European hackers have been indicted on fraud charges in Atlanta.

The men, hailing from Russia, Moldova and Estonia, are alleged to have carried out more than $9 million in thefts from ATM machines around the world during November 2008.

It is said that the group compromised the data encryption used by RBS WorldPay to protect customer data.

Then, using 44 counterfeit payroll debit cards and a network of so-called "cashers", the hacking ring raised the account limits on compromised accounts before withdrawing money from more than 2,000 accounts in 280 locations over the space of 12 hours.

Sally Quillian Yates, acting United States attorney, said: "Last November, in just one day, an American credit card processor was hacked in perhaps the most sophisticated and organized computer fraud attack ever conducted."

She said that an unprecedented joint effort from international law enforcement agencies had been necessary to bring about the indictment of the alleged ringleaders of the fraud.

"This investigation has broken the back of one of the most sophisticated computer hacking rings in the world," Ms Yates stated.

In Washington DC her words were echoed by Lanny A Breur, assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division.

He reserved special praise for the Estonian authorities for their efforts in aiding the investigation and said the arrests had only been possible because of their close co-operation with the US.

In front of a Federal grand jury, the defendants were indicted on a total of sixteen charges.

The four men alleged to have masterminded the attack, Russian Victor Pleshchuk, Estonian Sergei Tsurikov, Moldovan Oleg Covelin and an unnamed fourth man, were charged with a variety of offences including computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The rest of the defendants stand accused of access device fraud.

Earlier this month, Federal authorities accused Ryan Harris, 26, from San Diego, of earning $1 million through selling free high-speed internet connections to companies.

It is alleged he achieved this through illegal cable modem hacking.

If convicted, he faces a potential 20 years in jail.

By Asim Shah

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