Info@NationalCyberSecurity
Info@NationalCyberSecurity

Hive RAT Creators and $3.5M Cryptojacking Mastermind Arrested in Global Crackdown | #cybercrime | #infosec


Two individuals have been arrested in Australia and the U.S. in connection with an alleged scheme to develop and distribute a remote access trojan called Hive RAT (previously Firebird).

The U.S. Justice Department (DoJ) said the malware “gave the malware purchasers control over victim computers and enabled them to access victims’ private communications, their login credentials, and other personal information.”

A 24-year-old individual named Edmond Chakhmakhchyan (aka “Corruption”) from Van Nuys in Los Angeles, California, was taken into custody after he was caught selling a license of Hive RAT to an undercover employee of a law enforcement agency.

He has been charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of advertising a device as an interception device, each of which carries a penalty of five years in prison. Chakhmakhchyan pleaded not guilty and was ordered to stand trial on June 4, 2024.

Court documents allege a partnership between the malware’s creator and the defendant under which the latter would post advertisements for the malware on a cybercrime forum called Hack Forums, accept cryptocurrency payments from customers, and offer product support.

Cybersecurity

Hive RAT comes with capabilities to terminate programs, browse files, record keystrokes, access incoming and outgoing communications, and steal victim passwords and other credentials for bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets from victims’ machines without their knowledge or consent.

“Chakhmakhchyan exchanged electronic messages with purchasers and explained to one buyer that the malware ‘allowed the Hive RAT user to access another person’s computer without that person knowing about the access,'” the DoJ said.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP), which announced charges of its own against a citizen for their purported involvement in the creation and sale of Hive RAT, said its investigation into the matter began in 2020.

The unnamed suspect faces 12 charges, including one count of producing data with intent to commit a computer offense, one count of controlling data with intent to commit a computer offense, and 10 counts of supplying data with intent to commit a computer offense. The maximum penalty for each of these offenses is three years imprisonment.

“Remote Access Trojans are one of the most harmful cyber threats in the online environment – once installed onto a device, a RAT can provide criminals with full access to, and control of the device,” AFP Acting Commander Cybercrime Sue Evans said.

“This could include anything from committing crimes anonymously, watching victims through camera devices, wiping hard drives, or stealing banking credentials and other sensitive information.”

Nebraska Man Indicted in Cryptojacking Scheme

The development comes as federal prosecutors in the U.S. indicted Charles O. Parks III (aka “CP3O”), 45, for operating a massive illegal cryptojacking operation, defrauding “two well-known providers of cloud computing services” out of more than $3.5 million in computing resources to mine cryptocurrency worth nearly $1 million.

The indictment charges the Parks with wire fraud, money laundering, and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. He was arrested on April 13, 2024. The wire fraud and money laundering charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. He also faces a 10 years’ imprisonment on the unlawful monetary transactions charges.

Cybersecurity

While the DoJ does not explicitly state what cloud providers were targeted in the fraudulent operation, it noted that the companies are based in the Washington state cities of Seattle and Redmond – the corporate headquarters for Amazon and Microsoft.

“From in or about January 2021 through August 2021, Parks created and used a variety of names, corporate affiliations and email addresses, including emails with domains from corporate entities he operated […] to register numerous accounts with the cloud providers and to gain access to massive amounts of computing processing power and storage that he did not pay for,” the DoJ said.

The illicitly obtained resources were then used to mine cryptocurrencies such as Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC) and Monero (XMR), which were laundered through a network of cryptocurrency exchanges, a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace, an online payment provider, and traditional bank accounts to conceal digital transaction trail.

The ill-gotten proceeds, prosecutors said, were ultimately converted into dollars, which Parks used to make various extravagant purchases that included a Mercedes Benz luxury car, jewelry, and first-class hotel and travel expenses.

“Parks tricked the providers into approving heightened privileges and benefits, including elevated levels of cloud computing services and deferred billing accommodations, and deflected inquiries from the providers regarding questionable data usage and mounting unpaid subscription balances,” the DoJ said.

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