Russian National busted in massive malicious software scheme

A Russian National was charged Friday with multiple crimes associated with his alleged operation of the massive computer infection scheme, “Kelihos botnet”.

According to the Justice Department, the Kelihos botnet is “a global network of tens of thousands of infected computers,” which the suspect allegedly used “to facilitate malicious activities including harvesting login credentials, distributing bulk spam e-mails, and install ransomware and other malicious software.”

Peter Yuryevich Levashov, 36, aka Petr Levashov, Peter Severa, Petr Severa and Sergey Astakhov, of St. Petersburg, Russia, faces one count of conspiracy, one count of accessing protected computers in furtherance of fraud, one count of wire fraud, one count of threatening to damage a protected computer, two counts of fraud in connection with email and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Levashov was arrested by Spanish authorities in Barcelona on April 7, 2017 in response to a criminal complaint and arrest warrant issued in the District of Connecticut on March 24, 2017. Levashov is being detained in Spain, and the Justice Department is seeking his extradition.

The indictment noted that a “botnet” is a network of computers infected with malicious software that enables a third party to control the entire computer network without the knowledge or consent of the computer owners. While allegedly controlling and operating the Kelihos botnet, Levashov culled personal information and means of identification (including email addresses, usernames and logins, and passwords) from infected computers. In addition, Levashov allegedly published spam, disseminated other malware—such as banking Trojans and ransomware—and promoted the Kelihos botnet spam and malware services to others for purchase.

During any 24-hour period, the Kelihos botnet allegedly generated and distributed in excess of 2,500 unsolicited spam e-mails that promoted various criminal schemes, including deceptively advertising stocks in order to fraudulently increase their price, also known as “pump-and-dump” stock fraud schemes.

The Justice Department announced on April 10, 2017 that it had moved to dismantle the Kelihos botnet.

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