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News : International Last Updated: Aug 18, 2010 - 7:08:19 AM


US justice targets Eastern European credit card system hackers
By Finfacts Team
Aug 17, 2010 - 4:09:11 AM

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This month an alleged Estonian computer hacker of a US credit card processing system, has been extradited to the United States and last week the US Justice Department announced that in an unrelated case, an international credit card trafficker thought to be one of the most prolific sellers of stolen data, was arrested in Nice, France as he was boarding a flight to Moscow.  

In its latest quarterly threat report, Internet security firm Symantec, said the United States was the top ranked country for malicious activity in the second quarter, accounting for 21% of the total, followed by India, Germany and China. In the quarter, the most frequently advertised item observed on underground economy servers was credit card information, accounting for 28% of all goods. Prices for credit card information ranged from $1 to $30 depending on the type of card, the country of origin, and the amount of bundled personal information used for card holder verification. Symantec observed bulk purchase offers of 1000 credit cards for $1,500. The second most commonly advertised item for sale on underground economy servers during this quarter was bank accounts, accounting for 24% of all advertised goods. The advertised price for bank accounts ranged from $10 to $125 and bank balances ranged from $373 to $1.5m.

Symantec observed 12.7trn spam messages during this quarter, accounting for approximately 89% of all email messages observed.

The US Justice Department announced that Sergei Tšurikov, 26, of Tallinn, Estonia, has been extradited to the United States to face charges of hacking into a computer network operated by an Atlanta-based credit card processing company. Tšurikov; Viktor Pleshchuk, 29, of St. Petersburg, Russia; Oleg Covelin , 29, of Chişinãu, Moldova; and a person known only as "Hacker 3" were charged in a Nov. 10, 2009, indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.

 "Computer hackers who steal from American financial networks must be held accountable for their crimes, whether they operate here or abroad," said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. "The Department of Justice, working hand in hand with our international law enforcement partners, is committed to vigorously prosecuting these crimes and to ensuring that these criminals are extradited and brought to justice."

According to court documents, in November 2008, Pleshchuk, TšurikovandCovelin allegedly obtained unauthorized access into the computer network of RBS WorldPay, the US payment processing division of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, located in Atlanta. The indictment alleges that the group used sophisticated hacking techniques to compromise the data encryption that was used by RBS WorldPay to protect customer data on payroll debit cards. Payroll debit cards are used by various companies to pay their employees. By using a payroll debit card, employees are able to withdraw their regular salaries from an ATM.

Once the encryption on the card processing system was compromised, the hacking ring allegedly raised the account limits on compromised accounts, and then provided a network of "cashers" with 44 counterfeit payroll debit cards, which were used to withdraw more than $9m from over 2,100 ATMs in at least 280 cities worldwide, including cities in the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada. The $9m loss occurred within a span of less than 12 hours.

The hackers then allegedly sought to destroy data stored on the card processing network in order to conceal their hacking activity. The indictment alleges that the "cashers" were allowed to keep 30 to 50% of the stolen funds, but transmitted the bulk of those funds back to Tšurikov, Pleshchuk and other co-defendants, using means such as WebMoney accounts and Western Union. Throughout the duration of the cash-out, Pleshchuk and Tšurikov allegedly monitored the fraudulent ATM withdrawals in real-time from within the computer systems of RBS WorldPay.

Tšurikov also distributed fraudulently obtained debit card account numbers and PIN codes to others in the ring in Estonia who allegedly withdrew approximately $289,000 in US funds from ATMs in Tallinn, Estonia. The indictment charging Tšurikov and his co-defendants seeks forfeiture of over $9.4m of proceeds of the crimes.

Tšurikov, Pleshchuk, Covelin, and "Hacker 3" each face a maximum US sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Since the United States indictment was announced in November 2009, Tšurikov has been convicted in Estonia of fraud relating to ATM withdrawals.

Vladislav Anatolievich Horohorin, 27, aka "BadB" of Moscow, who was arrested in France, was indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2009 on charges of access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

"In just the last week, we’ve seen an alleged hacker extradited to the United States to face charges, and now, a credit card data dealer arrested abroad on U.S. charges," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.  "Cyber criminals who target US citizens should not fool themselves into believing they can elude justice simply because they commit crimes outside of our borders.  As this and so many other cases demonstrate, working hand in hand with our partners around the globe, we will do everything in our power to bring these criminals to the United States to answer for their alleged crimes."

According to the US indictment, Horohorin was the subject of an undercover investigation by US Secret Service agents. Horohorin, who is a citizen of Israel and the Ukraine, allegedly used online criminal forums such as "CarderPlanet" and "carder.su" to sell stolen credit card information, known as "dumps," to online purchasers around the world. According to the indictment, Horohorin, using the online name "BadB," advertised the availability of stolen credit card information through these web forums, and directed purchasers to create accounts at "dumps.name," a fully-automated dumps vending website operated by Horohorin and hosted outside the United States. The website was designed to assist in the exchange of funds for the stolen credit card information. Horohorin allegedly directed buyers to fund their "dumps.name" account using funds transferred by services including "Webmoney," an online currency service hosted in Russia. The purchaser would then access the "dumps.name" website and select the desired stolen credit card data. Using an online undercover identity, US Secret Service agents negotiated the sale of numerous stolen credit card dumps.

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