Russian hacker admits role in huge $300m data theft scheme

A Russian hacker called Vladimir Drinkman has pleaded guilty to his involvement in a data breach scheme that stole 160 million credit card details from US companies and resulted in losses estimated at $300m.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said that the scheme was the largest of its kind, and is reported to have targeted institutions such as Dow Jones, Carrefour and Nasdaq.

Drinkman was one of five hackers involved the scam that used SQL injection attacks to infiltrate networks and place malware to create a backdoor for the hackers to maintain access to the systems.

Once inside they were able to gather huge amounts of data on customers and clients of the companies involved, and sold this information on forums in exchange for around $10 per US credit card and associated data and $50 per European credit card and associated data.

Each member of the gang had different skills required for the crime. Drinkman carried out the network penetration to gain access to the corporate victims’ systems and mine the networks to steal the data.

He was allegedly helped in this work by Alexandr Kalinin and Roman Kotov, both from Russia.

Another defendant, Mikhail Rytikov, 28, of Odessa, allegedly ran the anonymous web-hosting services, while Dmitriy Smilianets, 32, of Moscow, allegedly sold the information stolen by the other conspirators.

Drinkman was arrested in the Netherlands on 28 June 2012 for his involvement in the scheme and extradited to the US in 2015. Sentencing will take place in January 2016.

Smilianets was also arrested in the Netherlands in 2012 and is in federal custody. Kalinin, Kotov and Rytikov remain at large.

US assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell said that the capture and subsequent prosecution of Drinkman showed that the US government is winning the war against hackers.

“As demonstrated by today’s conviction, our close cooperation with our international partners makes it more likely every day that we will find and bring to justice cyber criminals who attack America, wherever in the world they may be,” he said.

“As law enforcement around the world responds to the cyber threat that affects us all, I am confident that the type of international cooperation that led to this result will be the new normal.”


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