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Eight indicted for $9 million hack

By Grant Gross
November 10, 2009 11:56 AM ET

IDG News Service - A grand jury in Atlanta has indicted eight people related to hacking into a computer network operated by credit-card processing vendor RBS WorldPlay and stealing $9 million.

Indicted today were Sergei Tsurikov, 25, of Tallinn, Estonia; Viktor Pleshchuk, 28, of St. Petersburg, Russia; Oleg Covelin, 28, of Chisinau, Moldova; and a person known only as Hacker 3. They were charged in a 16-count indictment of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, computer fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Also indicted in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia were Igor Grudijev, 31, Ronald Tsoi, 31, Evelin Tsoi, 20, and Mihhail Jevgenov, 33, each of Tallinn, on a charge each of access device fraud.

The indictment alleges that the group used sophisticated hacking techniques to compromise the data encryption that was used by RBS WorldPay to protect customer data on payroll debit cards, which are used by companies to pay employees. Using a payroll debit card, employees are able to withdraw their regular salaries from an ATM.

Once the encryption on the card-processing system was compromised, the hacking ring allegedly raised the account limits on compromised accounts, and then provided a network of so-called "cashers" with 44 counterfeit payroll debit cards, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Those counterfeit cards were used to withdraw more than $9 million from more than 2,100 ATMs in about 280 cities worldwide, including cities in the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada.

The $9 million loss happened in less than 12 hours last November.

The hackers then allegedly sought to destroy data stored on the card-processing network in order to conceal their hacking activity, the DOJ said. The indictment alleges that the cashers were allowed to keep 30% to 50% of the stolen funds, but transmitted the rest of the funds back to Tsurikov, Pleshchuk and other co-defendants. After discovering the unauthorized activity, RBS WorldPay, a division of the Royal Bank of Scotland, immediately reported the breach.

Several overseas law-enforcement agencies cooperated in the investigation. Estonian Central Criminal Police apprehended Tsurikov, Ronald Tsoi, Evelin Tsoi and Jevgenov in Estonia earlier this year. Each is facing related charges in Estonia. Tsurikov is also in custody in Estonia and is pending extradition to the U.S.

Cooperation between the Hong Kong Police Force and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation also led to a parallel investigation in Hong Kong, resulting in the identification and arrest of two individuals who were responsible for withdrawing RBS WorldPay funds from ATMs there. The Netherlands Police Agency National Crime Squad High Tech Crime Unit and the Netherlands National Public Prosecutor's Office also provided significant assistance, the DOJ said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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