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Russian pleads guilty in banking virus case
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Jan 28, 2014

A Russian national accused of creating a virus that infected some 1.4 million computers to steal bank account data pleaded guilty Tuesday to US criminal charges, officials said.

Aleksandr Andreevich Panin, known by his online monikers "Gribodemon" and "Harderman," pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud for his role as the developer and distributor of the malware known as "SpyEye," the Justice Department said.

The virus infected over 1.4 million computers in the United States and abroad, according to industry data cited by the Justice Department.

"Americans do not need to be reminded how devastating it is when cyber criminals surreptitiously install malicious codes on computer networks and then siphon away private information from unsuspecting consumers," said acting assistant attorney general Mythili Raman.

According to court documents, SpyEye was created as a sophisticated malicious computer code to automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information, such as online banking credentials, usernames and passwords.

Investigators said it secretly infects computers, enabling cyber criminals to gain remote access and steal personal and financial information through a variety of techniques, including "keystroke loggers," and "credit card grabbers."

US authorities said Panin was the brains behind SpyEye and operated from Russia from 2009, selling the software on online criminal forums for between $1,000 and $8,500.

One of Panin's clients, known as "Soldier," is believed to have made more than $3.2 million in a six-month period using the SpyEye virus, officials said, adding that industry data indicates more than 10,000 banks accounts have been compromised by the malware.

Panin was arrested July 1, when he flew through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Officials have also charged a co-conspirator who operated SpyEye servers from the US state of Georgia, Hamza Bendelladj, an Algerian national also known as "Bx1," who is awaiting trial.

Sentencing for Panin is scheduled for April 29 in a federal court in Georgia.


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