U.S., European officials bring charges in global malware case

Posted Thursday, 16 May 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

WASHINGTON — Ten people, including five Russian fugitives, have been charged in connection with malicious software attacks that infected tens of thousands of computers worldwide and caused more than $100 million in financial losses, U.S. and European authorities announced Thursday. The malware enabled criminals from Eastern Europe to take remote control of infected computers and siphon funds from victims' bank accounts, and targeted companies and institutions across all sectors of American life. Victims included a Washington law firm, a church in Texas, a furniture business in California, a casino in Mississippi and a Pennsylvania asphalt and paving business. Several defendants are awaiting prosecution in Europe, and five are Russians who remain fugitives in that country. An 11th participant in the conspiracy was extradited to the United States from Bulgaria in 2016 and pleaded guilty last month in a related case in federal court in Pittsburgh, where Thursday's indictment was brought. Though the Justice Department has pursued multiple malware prosecutions in recent years against foreign hackers, this case stands out as a novel model of international collaboration , said Scott Brady, the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh. American authorities did not seek the immediate extradition of all 10 defendants. Extradition is an often cumbersome process that can take years of negotiations, even in countries that have treaties with the U.S. Instead, they shared evidence with their European counterparts to allow officials in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to initiate prosecutions in the countries where the defendants reside. "It represents a paradigm change in how we prosecute cybercrime," Brady said in an interview with The Associated Press before a news conference in The Hague with representatives of six countries. Cybercrime networks "are increasingly targetable" when investigators work together, Robert Jones, the FBI special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh office, said at the news conference. "International cooperation is no longer a nicety, it's a requirement," he said. Other law enforcement officials also said the strategy represents the new face of combating high-tech crime. Cybercrime has no borders, and criminals have taken advantage of the legal complexities of trying to fight it, said Steven Wilson, head of the European CyberCrime Centre at Europol. "Only through international cooperation can we hope to tackle it," he said, adding the charges "provide for a safer internet for all of us." The charges in the indictment include conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The investigation was an outgrowth of the Justice Department's dismantling in 2016 of a network of computer servers, known as Avalanche, which hosted more than 20 different types of malware. GozNym, the malware cited in Thursday's case, was among the ones hosted on the network and was designed to automate the theft of sensitive personal and financial information. Law enforcement officials say it was formed by the defendants as they advertised their technical skills in underground, Russian-language online criminal forums. The defendants had different roles within the conspiracy, including developing the malware, encrypting it so it could avoid detection by anti-virus software, mass distributing the spam emails and sneaking in to the victims' bank accounts. "For the past three years, we have been unpeeling an onion as it were that is very challenging to investigate and identify," Brady said. GozNym infected more than 41,000 computers. It relied on spam emails, disguised as legitimate messages, that once opened enabled the malware to be downloaded onto the machines. From there, the hackers could record keystrokes from the victims' computers, steal banking log-in credentials and then launder the stolen money into foreign bank accounts they controlled. Brady said prosecutors always look to recover stolen funds, but that is especially challenging in international cybercrime cases. "Proceeds were converted to bitcoin and without the private key, it is really hard to identify and access, let alone seize, those accounts," Brady told the AP. Associated Press writer Kristen de Groot in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

Other articles published by Las Vegas Sun

Vegas Play of the Day: Florida vs. Miami Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

The sixth season of the annual Play of the Day betting competition between the Sun's sports staff is now underway, effective July 1. Bankrolls start at $10,000 for each of the four participants, with the objective to increase it as much as possible over...

Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Not a single game between Football Bowl Subdivision teams will go uncovered in Talking Points this season. That’s the goal anyway as, for the second straight season, I’ll set out to handicap the entire slate of college football each week....

America has a big problem Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

We are so blessed to have such a big man in the Oval Office. We know he has the biggest and best brain; he told us so. We have never had a president tell us so many lies in such a short period of time (12,000 or more at last count). We have been advised...

Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Rank-and-file Democrats appear to be shifting to the middle on health care, worried about what's politically achievable on their party's top 2020 issue. While "Medicare for All" remains hugely popular, the majority say they'd prefer building on...

Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

No one can come to any consensus on what’s going to happen in the Pac-12 Conference this year. At least compared to the other Power Five conferences, the West Coast league has caused the most dissension among bettors. Odds on 10 of the 12 teams to win...

Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

When it comes to credit card rewards, it's not all about gas, groceries and restaurants anymore. Issuers are moving beyond suburban staples to include millennial-friendly categories such as transit and streaming subscriptions. The trend toward streaming...

Everyone needs good health care Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

I didn’t envision my twenties being spent working with doctors to treat an incurable disease. But polycystic kidney disease has been passed down through several generations of my family, including my mother and myself. Throughout the process of...

Don’t accept risk with no reward Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Being active in protecting our environment has become a necessity in my life, as it should be for all Nevadans. For instance, when it comes to the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, experts have analyzed potential active faults within...

Washington already developing its next stimulus plan Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Financial markets are sending their loudest recession warning signals since 2007, when the United States was about to enter the Great Recession. And while an “inverted” yield curve is not a guarantee of recession, policymakers in Washington, D.C.,...

Primary care doctors are a viable option for mental health care needs Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Most patients don’t choose their primary care physician based on their doctor’s knowledge of mental health. Usually they ask whether the physician is taking new patients and accepts their insurance. But for Nevada, a state with a notoriously severe...

Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Any teams eyeing open real estate in the upper crust of the local high school football scene as a certain perennial power enters uncharted territory this season must be discouraged after what happened Friday night at Don Taylor Stadium. Despite playing...

Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Liberty football knew what it was signing up for when it agreed to host Chandler (Ariz.), a powerhouse to the south. Liberty knows if it is to go where it wants to go, it’s going to need to beat the best in the country. Naturally, Liberty knew when it...

Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

On the second play of his high school career, Bishop Gorman freshman Zachariah Branch took a short screen pass and raced 45 yards for a touchdown. Later in the first quarter Friday against Orem of Utah, he caught another touchdown, this time hauling in a ...

Streak ends: US men's basketball falls to Australia, 98-94 Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

MELBOURNE, Australia — The U.S. men's basketball team has lost for the first time in nearly 13 years, falling to Australia 98-94 in a pre-World Cup exhibition game on Saturday. Patty Mills scored 30 points for Australia, which rallied from a 10-point...

Posted Saturday, 24 August 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Robert Downey Jr. says he had a wild Disneyland ride in his younger days. The "Iron Man" and "Avengers: Endgame" star, among those honored Friday as Disney Legends, said his first visit to the Southern California resort included a...