3 charged in malware scheme targeting bank accounts

U.S. prosecutors say three foreign nationals created and distributed a virus that infected computers worldwide 1,000,000, including 40,000 in the United States

The U.S. authorities have charged three foreign nationals with the creation and distribution of a virus that has allowed the thieves to steal tens of millions of dollars from victims’ bank accounts.

The three are accused of creating the Gozi Trojan virus, which infected more than 1 million computers worldwide and 40,000 in the United States, including computers belonging to NASA, according to court documents unsealed today by Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan. Nikita Kuzmin, 25, Deniss Calovskis, 27, and Ionut Mihai Paunescu, 28, are accused of creating “one of the most financially destructive computer virus in history.”

The malware is installed on the computer after users clicked on a seemingly benign PDF file embedded in an e-mail, allowing cyber criminals to obtain user names, passwords and other security information used to hijack online banking accounts, prosecutors alleged.

“Banking Trojans are for cybercriminals what torches security-cracking or acetylene shall thieves traditional bank – but far more effective and less detectable,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said in a statement. “The survey to end the virus Gozi.”

Kuzmin, a Russian national who was arrested in 2010, pleaded guilty to charges of bank fraud in 2011 and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Kuzmin conceive Gozi started in 2005 in order to steal your bank account information and hire co-conspirators to write the source code of the virus’, prosecutors said today.

Kuzmin then rented the malware cybercriminals to weekly payment through a business called “Service 76” before being able to sell the virus to his co-conspirators in 2009, according to court documents. Calovskis, Latvia, is accused of writing virus code ‘, while Paunescu, Romania, would provide “bullet-proof hosting” to distribute Gozi.

The United States is seeking the extradition of the alleged conspirators Kuzmin, who were arrested last year in their countries of origin. It was not immediately clear who, if anyone, was hired to represent the accused in court. The trio faces up to 60 to 95 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

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