Four Russian nationals and a Ukrainian have been charged with running a sophisticated hacking organization that over seven years penetrated computer networks of more than a dozen major American and international corporations, stealing and selling at least 160 million credit and debit card numbers, resulting in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Indictments were announced Thursday in Newark, where U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman called the case the largest hacking and data breach scheme ever prosecuted in the United States.
The victims in a scheme that allegedly ran from 2005 until last year included the electronic stock exchange Nasdaq; 7-Eleven; JCPenney; the New England supermarket chain Hannaford Brothers; JetBlue; Heartland Payment Systems, one of the world’s largest credit and debit processing companies, French retailer Carrefour, and the Belgium bank Dexia Bank Belgium.
The indictment says the suspects sent each other instant messages as they took control of the corporate data, telling each other, for instance: “NASDAQ is owned.” At least one man told others that he used Google news alerts to learn whether his hacks had been discovered, according to the court filing.
The defendants were identified as Russians Vladimir Drinkman, Aleksander Kalinin, Roman Kotov and Dmitriy Smilianets, and Ukrainian Mikhail Rytikov. Authorities say one suspect is in the Netherlands and another is due to appear in U.S. District Court in New Jersey next week. The whereabouts of the three others were not immediately clear.
The prosecution builds on a case that resulted in a 20-year prison sentence in 2010 for Albert Gonzalez of Miami, who often used the screen name “soupnazi” and is identified in the new complaint as an unindicted co-conspirator. Other unindicted co-conspirators were also named.
Prosecutors identified Drinkman and Kalinin as “sophisticated” hackers who specialized in penetrating the computer networks of multinational corporations, financial institutions and payment processors.
Kotov’s specialty was harvesting data from the networks after they had been penetrated, and Rytikov provided anonymous web-hosting services that were used to hack into computer networks and covertly remove data, the indictment said.
Smilianets was the information salesman, the government said.
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