US disrupts biggest hacking and extortion rings

By , on June 3, 2014


MANILA (via Reuters) – A crime ring infecting thousands of PCs around the globe with a malicious software used in stealing banking credentials and extorting computer owners, was disrupted by U.S.-led international operation, a Reuters report indicated.

A Russian man was charged for hacking, fraud, money-laundering, and for writing the master software, known as “Gameover Zeus” which according to court documents infected between 500,000 and 1 million machines worldwide.

The said software was derived from the original “Zeus” trojan in 2006 used for stealing financial passwords.

The same Reuters report stated that other malicious programs were also generated amd installed by the same Gamover Zeus crew.

Cryptolocker, a program which encrypted files and demanded release of payments infected more than 234,000 machines and won $27 million in ransom payments, according to the Justice Department.

“These schemes were highly sophisticated and immensely lucrative, and the cyber criminals did not make them easy to reach or disrupt,” Leslie Caldwell, who heads the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a statement published in the same Reuters report.

Dell expert Brett Stone-Gross, who assisted the FBI also said in the report that the Gameover Zeus “botnet” (robot network) is the largest disrupted program that relied on a peer-to-peer distribution method of infecting thousands of computers.

“We took control of the bots, so they would only talk with our infrastructure,” Stone-Gross said.

 (Story taken from a Reuters report by Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Jim Finkle in Boston and Aruna Viswanatha in Washington; Additional reporting by Julie Edwards and Alina Selyukh in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Ken Wills and Lisa Shumaker)