‘In Fraud We Trust’: Feds Target Cyber Predator Group Active During COVID-19

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A software writer’s guilty plea in Las Vegas on Friday to charges of RICO conspiracy for helping steal identities, payment cards, and other sensitive data highlights the massive losses incurred in cyberscams, which have increased in scope since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Valerian Chiochiu, aka “Onassis,” “Flagler,” “Socrate,” and “Eclessiastes,” 30, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge James C. Mahan in the District of Nevada.

Chiochiu, a national of the Republic of Moldova , was allegedly a member of  a group called the  Infraud Organization, which victimized people in all 50 states as well as worldwide, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

“During the course of its seven-year history, the Infraud Organization inflicted approximately $2.2 billion in intended losses, and more than $568 million in actual losses, on a wide swath of financial institutions, merchants, and private individuals,” said a Justice Department statement.

Infraud pursued large-scale acquisition, sale, and dissemination of stolen identities, compromised debit and credit cards, personally identifiable information, financial and banking information, computer malware, and other contraband.

A co-founder and administrator of Infraud, Sergey Medvedev of the Russian Federation, pleaded guilty on June 26th. Another co-founder, Svyatoslav Bondarenko, remains a fugitive.

The group was created in 2010 and became a hub for thieves hoping to buy goods with fake and stolen payment cards, according to Endgadget.

Infraud was “reportedly sophisticated, with members offering automated vending sites, a screening process, and even an escrow service to help complete transactions,” said Endgadget.

Under the slogan “In Fraud We Trust,” the organization directed traffic and potential purchasers to the automated vending sites of its members, which served as online conduits to traffic in stolen means of identification, stolen financial and banking information, malware, and other illicit goods.

According to zdnet, “Administrators managed the day-to-day running of the organization, including the approval of new members. Moderators oversaw specific sectors of the carding ring depending on their personal areas of expertise, whereas vendors sold products.”

Infraud even separated members into standard and VIP accounts.

Data breaches have grown “in intensity and frequency in recent months as cybercriminals take advantage of coronavirus confusion,” said a story in CNBC.

Large-scale data breaches increased 273 percent in the first half of 2020, compared to the same time last year, according to a study in Iomart.

Another recent major arrest in the cybercrime arena was that of 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark of Florida, accused of hacking Twitter on July 15th.

Florida prosecutors said Clark was the “mastermind” of a prominent hack last month, accusing him of tricking his way into Twitter’s systems and taking over the accounts of some of the world’s most famous people, including Barack Obama, Kanye West, and Jeff Bezos.

Prosecutors said Clark had more than $3 million worth of bitcoin assets and the bitcoin must be illegally obtained, given Clark’s “conduct.”

“His arrest raised questions about how someone so young could penetrate the defenses of what was supposedly one of Silicon Valley’s most sophisticated technology companies,” said a story posted in Yahoo.

Clark, who prosecutors said worked with at least two others to hack Twitter but was the leader, is being charged as an adult with 30 felonies.

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