11 Eastern Europeans charged in UK Zeus bust

Police stay they stole millions from HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Lloyds

They worked as Web designers, supermarket workers, day laborers, some were unemployed. But U.K. police say that the group of Eastern Europeans,picked up in early morning raids Tuesday also made millions by operating a network of bank-robbing Trojan horse programs.

London's Metropolitan Police charged 11 alleged members of the gang on Wednesday. Most of them were charged with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering crimes. They are due to appear in Westminster Magistrates' Court court early Thursday morning.

According to police, the gang made £6 million (US$9.5 million) in one three-month period by infecting PCs with a variant of the Zeus Trojan. Using the malware's ability gain unauthorized access to bank accounts, they then allegedly transferred money to accounts under their control.

"We believe we have disrupted a highly organised criminal network, which has used sophisticated methods to siphon large amounts of cash from many innocent peoples' accounts," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Zeus has emerged as a major headache for banks in recent years, but the U.K. crew are not the masterminds of the operation, according to security experts.

Because the Zeus software is sold on the black market to cyber criminals, there are easily a dozen Zeus gangs in operation, and more than 160 command-and-control servers for the malware are still active.

"There are between 5 and 10 top-tier groups" said Don Jackson, a researcher with security vendor SecureWorks, who has studied Zeus. "This group in the UK was not one of those top groups, but wanted to be one."

Police arrested 20 people in the Tuesday raid, but nine were bailed Wednesday. They may face charges at a later date.

Those who were charged were:

Yuriy Korovalenko, 28 a Ukrainian Web designer

Yevhen Kulibaba, 32, a Ukrainian property developer

Karina Kostromina, 33, unemployed, from Latvia

Aleksander Kusner, 27, unemployed, from Estonia

Roman Zenyk, 29, a laborer from Ukraine

Eduard Babaryka, 26, a driver from Belarus

Milka Valerij, 29, a laborer from Ukraine

Iryna Prakochyk, 23, unemployed, from Ukraine

Ivars Poikans, 29, a Latvian supermarket worker

Kaspars Cliematnieks, 24, a Latvian supermarket worker

Another man, Zurab Revazishvili, 34, of Georgia was charged with violating the UK's Identity Cards Act.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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