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Notorious Russian Spammer Pleads Guilty In U.S. Court

Pyotr Levashov (right) attends an extradition hearing in Madrid in 2017.
Pyotr Levashov (right) attends an extradition hearing in Madrid in 2017.

A Russian man considered to be one of the world's most notorious spammers has pleaded guilty to U.S. charges stemming from his operation of the Kelihos botnet, the Justice Department says.

Pyotr Levashov, 38, used the Kelihos botnet to "facilitate malicious activities including harvesting login credentials, distributing bulk spam e-mails, and installing ransomware and other malicious software," the department said in a September 12 statement.

"Today's guilty plea should serve as an unequivocal reminder to all those who use the Internet for illicit purposes,” said Brian Turner, the FBI special agent in New Haven, Connecticut.

"The FBI will pursue you regardless of what country you live in and the length of time it might take to secure your eventual arrest. As we move forward, no cybercriminal should rest easy," he added.

A botnet is a network of computers infected with malicious software that allows a third party to control the entire computer network without the knowledge or consent of the computer owners, according to court documents and statements made in court.

Since the late 1990s until his arrest in April 2017, Levashov controlled and operated "multiple" botnets, including the Storm, Waledac, and Kelihos botnets, the Justice Department said.

Kelihos alone infected at least 50,000 computers.

Spanish authorities arrested Levashov while he was vacationing with his family in Barcelona, and sent him to the United States in February as Russian authorities unsuccessfully fought his extradition.

The Justice Department said Levashov pleaded guilty in federal court in Hartford, Connecticut, to one count of causing intentional damage to a protected computer, one count of conspiracy, one count of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Sentencing is scheduled for September 2019. Justice Department did not explain the long time period between his guilty plea and sentencing.

He is being detained until his sentencing and could face years in prison.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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