Gozi Malware Creators Charged in the US; the Russian Faces 95 years in Prison
US authorities have charged three Europeans, including one Russian, for writing and distributing the Gozi malware to steal tens of millions of dollars from bank accounts, according to a press release by prosecutors.
Prosecutors say the hackers injected the Gozi malware into a million computers worldwide, including 40,000 in the US and some systems belonging to NASA. The accused Russian national risks a maximum penalty of 95 years in prison.
25 year-old Nikita Kuzmin, 27 year-old Deniss Calovskis, and 28 year-old Mihai Ionut Paunescu are accused of creating “one of the most financially destructive computer viruses in history.”
“They targeted banks because that’s where the money still is,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “But as we have seen with increasing frequency, cyber criminals’ bank heists require neither a mask nor a gun, just a clever program and an Internet connection. This case should serve as a wake-up call to banks and consumers alike, because cybercrime remains one of the greatest threats we face, and it is not going away any time soon.”
Kuzmin, who created Gozi, was arrested in the US in November 2010 and pled guilty to computer intrusion and fraud. Calovskis, who allegedly wrote some of the computer code that made Gozi so effective, was arrested in his home country, Latvia, in November last year. He now faces a maximum penalty of 67 years in prison.
Romanian national Mihai Ionut Paunescu (aka “Virus”) is accused of running a “bulletproof hosting” service that helped his partners distribute the Gozi Virus, the Zeus Trojan and other notorious malware. Paunescu was arrested in Romania in December of last year and faces 60 years in prison.