9 suspects have been accused of an international conspiracy which employed malware to collect bank account details and use them to steal millions. The victims had accounts held at a Nebraska bank, among others.
2 of the suspects, citizens of Ukraine residing in the United Kingdom, have been extradited to the United States to face charges in Nebraska. 4 others, residing in Ukraine and the Russian Federation, remain at large. As for the 3 other defendants, they seem to be not identified yet. By the way, a grand jury indicted the defendants almost two years ago, but the indictment wasn’t unsealed until last week.
The charges say that the group of suspects used Zeus malicious software to steal passwords and account numbers. Then the hackers used that data to log into online banking accounts and steal millions of dollars. Security experts remind that the Zeus virus was a piece of malware which has been widely used by the hackers worldwide to steal credit card details and other financial information. This group managed to use the malware to beat 2-factor identification systems, including SecurID, developed by the RSA unit of EMC Corp.
The indictment in question was unsealed last week ahead of an arraignment of the 2 defendants who were extradited from the United Kingdom – Yuriy Konovalenko, 31, and Yevhen Kulibaba, 36. The prosecutors point out that they used US residents as “money mules”, receiving funds transferred over the Automated Clearing House network or through other interstate wire systems from the affected bank accounts into the mules’ own bank accounts. Those “mules” then withdrew the money and wired it overseas to the hackers.
Lawyers of the Ukrainian defendants couldn’t be reached for comments, but the US Justice Department revealed that the FBI’s Omaha Cyber Task Force was investigating the matter, being assisted by law enforcement agencies in three countries: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Ukraine.
The charges come as the American government and hundreds of businesses have to deal with the so-called “Heartbleed” bug uncovered last week. The latter may have left hundreds of thousands of sites open to data theft. The US Department of Homeland Security also warned of hackers trying to exploit “Heartbleed” in targeted attacks.