US: 3 charged over 'Gozi' global computer virus (Update)

Jan 23, 2013 by Larry Neumeister

Three men from Russia, Romania and Latvia were in custody Wednesday in the U.S. on charges that they spread a computer virus to more than a million computers worldwide, including almost 200 of the U.S. space agency, siphoning off passwords and online banking information that allowed hackers to steal tens of millions of dollars.

Their arrests were announced as federal authorities unsealed court documents accusing the men of participating in a conspiracy that began in 2005. NASA computers were among those infected by what was called the Gozi virus.

The NASA breach occurred from Dec. 14, 2007, to Aug. 9, 2012, when about 190 agency computers were infected, according to court documents. Between May and August last year, they said, the infected computers sent data without the user's authorization, including the contents of Google chat messages.

The Gozi virus was designed in 2005 and distributed beginning in 2007, when it was secretly installed onto each victim's computer in a manner that left it virtually undetectable by antivirus software, the complaint said.

According to court papers, Romanian national Mihai Ionut Paunescu set up online infrastructure that allowed others to distribute the damaging programs, causing tens of millions of dollars in losses and affecting well over a million computers worldwide.

Paunescu was arrested in Romania. Deniss Calovskis was arrested in Latvia, where he is a citizen and resident, on charges including bank fraud conspiracy. Nikita Kuzmin, a Russian national, was arrested in New York on various charges, including bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy.

It was not immediately clear who would represent the defendants in court.

A charging document against Kuzmin accused him of designing the Gozi virus as a way to steal the personal bank account information of individuals and businesses in a widespread way.

It said he hired a programmer to write it and began in 2006 to rent the virus to others for a weekly fee, advertising it on Internet forums devoted to cybercrime and other criminal activities. In 2009, according to the document, Kuzmin was approached by others who wanted to acquire the source code so they could attack computers and steal money from bank accounts in the United States and, in particular, European countries. The document said Kuzmin offered the code to other groups of people for $50,000 plus a guaranteed share of future profits.

According to court documents, Calovskis had training and expertise in computer programming when he was hired by a co-conspirator to upgrade the virus with new code that would deceive victims into divulging additional personal information, such as mother's maiden names. Federal authorities sought at least $50 million from Calovskis, an amount of money they said was obtained through the conspiracy.

Explore further: Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

1 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Authorities bust 3 in infection of 13M computers

Mar 02, 2010

(AP) -- Authorities have smashed one of the world's biggest networks of virus-infected computers. It was a data vacuum that stole credit cards and online banking credentials from as many as 12.7 million poisoned PCs.

Two Latvians indicted in US in 'scareware' scam

Jun 23, 2011

Two Latvians have been indicted and dozens of computers and servers seized in the United States and Europe in a crackdown on international cybercrime, the US Justice Department said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

Dec 18, 2014

The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle ...

UN General Assembly OKs digital privacy resolution

Dec 18, 2014

The U.N. General Assembly has approved a resolution demanding better digital privacy protections for people around the world, another response to Edward Snowden's revelations about U.S. government spying.

Online privacy to remain thorny issue: survey

Dec 18, 2014

Online privacy will remain a thorny issue over the next decade, without a widely accepted system that balances user rights and personal data collection, a survey of experts showed Thursday.

Spain: Google News vanishes amid 'Google Tax' spat

Dec 16, 2014

Google on Tuesday followed through with a pledge to shut down Google News in Spain in reaction to a Spanish law requiring news publishers to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.