3 Charged in Bank Malware Scheme That Hit Thousands of Computers

Since he “marketed Gozi as a rent-a-virus, Kuzmin’s customers didn’t need the level of computer savvy he and his co-conspirators had,” reads a prepared statement by George Venizelos, the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the New York field office. “Instead of ‘This Gun for Hire,’ Kuzmin’s operation was ‘This Virus for Hire.'”

Three people were indicted Wednesday in New York for being behind a complex international operation that used a virus called ‘Gozi’ to infect thousands of computers worldwide, stealing citizens’ bank information.

The FBI has disclosed details of a two-and-a-half-year investigation that has led to the indictment of three Eastern Europeans: Nikita Kuzmin, Mihai Paunescu and Deniss Calovskis. The three have been charged with various counts involving bank and wire fraud, access device fraud and computer intrusion, and are facing a maximum penalty of 95, 60 and 67 years in prison, respectively.

According to the FBI, Gozi “infected at least 1 million computers worldwide and 40,000 in the U.S., and resulted in the theft or loss of tens of millions of dollars,” and the virus even hit NASA computers. As potential evidence, the feds have been able to retrieve 51 servers in Romania as well as laptops, desktops and external hard drives. The data seized amounts to 250 terabytes — or 250 million megabytes.

The criminal operation started somewhere in 2005 when Kuzmin, a Russian citizen, developed a virus named Gozi with the help of a programmer he hired to write the code. The virus was first spotted in Europe in 2007 and started infecting American computers in 2010.


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