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U.S. Sanctions, Indicts Hackers With Alleged Russian Intelligence Ties

Updated

The U.S. Justice Department on December 5 announced computer hacking and bank fraud charges against Russian national Maksim Yakubets, the alleged leader of a cybercriminal organization that has illicitly earned more than $100 million since 2016.

Simultaneously, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against Yakubets and his Evil Corp, which is behind the widespread use of a multifunctional malware package that has harvested online banking credentials from infected computers in more than 40 countries.

Conservatively, more than 300 banks and financial institutions, mostly in the United States and Britain, were victims of the malware scheme, the Justice Department said, which conducted the investigation jointly with British authorities.

A reward of $5 million -- the largest to date for a cybercriminal -- has been offered by the State Department for information leading to the capture or conviction of the hacker group’s leader, who is based in Moscow.

The 10-count indictment of Yakubets and his alleged co-conspirators includes charges that date back to 2009 and relate to the development and use of an earlier version of the malware that previously led to losses of an estimated $70 million from victims' bank accounts.

The Muscovite "is responsible for two of the worst computer hacking and bank fraud schemes of the past decade" and is on the FBI's list of the world’s most-wanted cybercriminals, the Justice Department said.

An alleged principal accomplice was identified as Igor Turashev, 38, from Yoshkar-Ola in Russia.

The Justice Department alleges that Yakubets “also provides direct assistance to the Russian government’s malicious cyberefforts, highlighting the Russian government’s enlistment of cybercriminals for its own malicious purposes.”

In particular, Yakubets allegedly has worked for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and may have a license to work with Russian classified information from the intelligence agency.

Also, as of 2017, Yakubets “was tasked to work on projects for the Russian state, to include acquiring confidential documents through cyber-enabled means and conducting cyber-enabled operations on its behalf.”

In total, 17 individuals and seven entities, including Evil Corp and Yakubets, had any property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction blocked.

Additionally, any entities in which one or more designated persons have a stake of 50 percent or higher have also been blocked.

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