Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

5 Charged in New Jersey in Largest Hacking Scheme in U.S. History: Feds

Prosecutors called it the largest hacking and data breach scheme in national history

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Laptop computers are offered for sale at a Tiger Direct store on April 11, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. According to a recent report, sales of personal computers have been experiencing double-digit declines as consumers look toward tablets and smart phones to fill their computing needs. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    Four Russian nationals and one Ukrainian man are charged with targeting major corporate networks and stealing more than 160 million credit card numbers, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, in what prosecutors describe as the largest known hacking and data breach conspiracy in United States history. 

    The losses include $300 million reported by three corporate victims and immeasurable losses to victims of the identity theft.
    The five men, Vladimir Drinkman, Alexandr Kalinin, Roman Kotov, Mikhail Rytikov, and Dmitriy Smilianets, are accused of hacking into the computer networks of several of the largest payment processing companies, retailers and financial institutions in the world and stealing the personal identifying information of individuals, including user names, passwords and credit and debit card numbers.  
    Victims of the computer attacks include NASDAQ, 7-Eleven, JetBlue, Dow Jones, J. C. Penney, Wet Seal, Dexia and others.
    After breaking into the computer networks, the men placed a malicious code, or malware, on the systems to create a “back door” that left the systems vulnerable and allowed the hackers to maintain access to the networks, according to prosecutors.  
    The hackers used their access to the systems to install “sniffers” which were programs designed to identify, collect and steal data from the victims’ computer networks. Once collected, the hackers sold the card numbers and associated data to resellers around the world, court papers said.
    Kalinin was also charged in two additional indictments obtained by federal prosecutors in Manhattan: one charges him in connection with hacking certain computer servers used by NASDAQ and a second indictment charges him and another Russian hacker, Nikolay Nasenkov, with an international scheme to steal bank account information by hacking into U.S. based financial institutions, prosecutors said. 
    “Those who have the expertise and the inclination to break into our computer networks,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said, “threaten our economic well-being, our privacy, and our national security.”
    Drinkman and Smilianets were arrested in the Netherlands in June 2012. Smilianets was extradited to the U.S. and is in federal custody. Kalinin, Kotov and Rytikov are fugitives.

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