The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has charged 36 cyber gangsters with peddling stolen personal and financial information as part of a long-running $530 million international online crime ring.
Federal prosecutors said that 13 people, allegedly members of the Infraud cyber gang, have already been arrested, including five Americans and individuals from six other countries, spanning Austria, France, Italy, Kosovo, Serbia and the U.K. Eighteen of the defendants will reportedly have to be extradited to the U.S. before being apprehended.
The list of crimes facing the defendants is long: Identity theft and financial fraud, including money laundering, stolen and counterfeit identification, bank fraud and wire fraud. You can read the full indictment here.
Infraud, which launched in October 2010, is short for “In Fraud We Trust,” according to Brian Krebs’ blog KrebsonSecurity. The Infraud forum, whose 11,000 members sold, traded and purchased stolen personal credentials on the black market, victimized consumers and financial institutions. Members were reportedly also engaged in selling and buying malware. Of the 36 Infraud crooks charged in the indictment, some are only identified by their hacker nicknames, Krebs said. However, he questioned the names and nicknames of some of the defendants, particularly founder and top member Svyatoslav Bondarenko, a hacker from Ukraine who used the nicknames “Rector” and “Helkern.”
“Having been a fairly regular lurker on Infraud over the past seven years who has sought to independently identify many of these individuals, I can say that some of these names and nick associations sound accurate but several do not,” Krebs wrote. While the “Rector” nickname is likely accurate, “I’m not sure the Helkern association with Bondarenko is accurate,” he said.
“Today’s indictment and arrests mark one of the largest cyber fraud enterprise prosecutions ever undertaken by the Department of Justice,” said John P. Cronan, acting assistant attorney general of the DoJ's criminal division. “As alleged in the indictment, Infraud operated like a business to facilitate cyber fraud on a global scale.”
Charges against the defendants could bring sentences of more than 20 years in prison if they are judged to be guilty of the crimes. The cyber crime ring take down resulted from a joint operation between the U.S. attorney’s office in Nevada, the DoJ’s criminal division and the Department of Homeland Security’s criminal investigations unit, according to reports. U.S. attorneys are prosecuting the case in Nevada.
At this point, it’s unclear if the Infraud forum had any ties to massive breaches such as the Equifax and Target heists. The investigation is ongoing, officials said.