U.S. Accuses Two Russian Hackers of Stealing $70M from Worldwide Bank Accounts

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Red Square, Moscow. By Waldec via Flickr

Two Russian hackers are accused of siphoning about $70 million from thousands of victims’ bank accounts in the U.S. and abroad, reports USA Today.

Maksim Yakubets, 32, known as “Aqua,” and Igor Turashev, 38, known as “Enki,” were described by federal authorities as the “most prolific cyber criminals in the world,” hijacking personal financial data and routing streams of cash to their own accounts.

Their victims included large banks, municipalities, schools, an Ohio dairy and an order of Catholic nuns in Chicago. Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said the suspects’ decade-long operation deployed “the most damaging pieces of financial malware ever used.”

Yakubets, who is linked to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), was the leader of the hacking operation and Turashev was his assistant, prosecutors said, according to NBC News.  The two men obtained access to the U.S. computer systems through phishing emails claiming to be from legitimate companies and groups.

Yakubets and Turashev remain at large and are believed to be in Russia. The State Department and the FBI offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Yakubets, who oversaw the alleged global conspiracy known as “Evil Corp.”

Using software dubbed “Bugat,” the operation relied on infecting computer systems with programs designed to “automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information.” That included online banking passwords that were allegedly used to reroute wire transfers and drain accounts.

A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh returned a 10-count indictment against the pair, charging them with conspiracy to commit fraud, computer hacking, wire fraud and bank fraud. Nebraska U.S. Attorney Joseph Kelly characterized the scheme as “one of the most outrageous cybercrimes in history.”

The Treasury Department said Yakubets has provided “direct assistance to the Russian government’s malicious cyber efforts.” The FBI acknowledged it would be difficult to arrest and prosecute the suspects, with both of them believed to be living in Russia. The bureau said identifying and leveling charges against them could limit their movements and raise awareness for other potential victims.

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