Law enforcement officials in Pittsburgh had a major hand in bringing down an international ring of cyber criminals, according U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton.
The indictment, unsealed Monday, names Russian citizen Evgeny Bogachev as one of five defendants, charged with conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. The indictment alleges that Bogachev was the mastermind behind two malware programs that infected the computers of as many as one million people worldwide, 25 percent of whom were in the United States.
Law enforcement officials believe that the programs Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker helped Bogachev and his associates steal as much as $100 million since 2011.
Hickton said Gameover Zeus worked by infecting “the computers of people who were unknowing and unwitting and combing their computers to steal their financial data and then prompting unauthorized financial transactions, and shipping the money through money mules overseas.”
Cryptolocker worked differently, infecting and encrypting a victim’s computer and requiring “the innocent victim to pay ransom to un-encrypt their computer,” Hickton said.
Hickton said the multi-year investigation was centered in Pittsburgh because it was home to some of the victims, and because the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh has made cybercrime a priority.
“We have a dedicated unit,” Hickton said. “We have a fantastic group over at the FBI (and a) great relationship with the institutional components at the Department of Justice, and we have great lawyers in our office who are very confident in this arena.”
Hickton called Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker two of the most sophisticated malware programs ever created.
“This is a huge victory for the public,” Hickton said. “It was a great worldwide cooperative effort with approximately a dozen countries. It was fantastic legal work led by the FBI.”
In addition to criminal charges, the Department of Justice has filed civil charges against Bogochev and his associates, who are identified only by their online screen names in the indictment.
Hickton said people who believe their computers have been infected with Gameover Zeus, Cryptolocker, or any other type of malware should visit the Department of Homeland Security website to find out how to protect themselves against cyber theft.
Bogachev is not currently in custody. According to Justice Department officials, he was last known to reside in Anapa, Russia, near the Crimean Peninsula, and is considered to be a flight risk.
“We will use all available legal process to bring Evgeniy Bogachev to stand trial in a federal courtroom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” Hickton said in a statement.