Hacker Whose Virus Aided Bank Heists Gets Cooperation Reward

Nikita Kuzmin from Russia, who is one of the three architects of the computer malware “Gozi” virus, has been ordered by the U.S. District Judge to pay $6.9 million in forfeiture and restitution for infecting more than 1 million computers across the world through PDF files. People unsuspectingly installed the virus on their machines by downloading a PDF file that they would receive that’s related to their interests.

Kuzmin, who was arrested in 2010 and pleaded guilty in 2011, has been spared from additional prison time on top of the 37 months he has served in custody after U.S. prosecutors applauded his cooperation with their probe.

The Gozi virus was first identified by the authorities back in 2007. However, by that time, Kuzmin and his associates had already drained off millions of dollars from people’s accounts.

Security experts later determined that a server which had data stolen by the virus contained 10,000 accounts belonging to more than 5,200 personal computer users, of which more than 160 belonged to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), prosecutors said. According to the U.S., Gozi also infected computers in Germany, the U.K., Poland, France, Finland, Italy and Turkey. Other than stealing money himself, Kuzmin also rented out the Gozi virus to other hackers for $500 a week. He earned $250,000 from that particular scheme.

Deniss Calovskis, a Latvian who wrote some of the computer code that enabled the virus to target particular banks, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced in January to the 21 months he had already spent in U.S. custody. In December 2012, a third man, Mihai Ionut Paunescu was arrested in Romania and awaits extradition to the U.S., according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney.

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