News and Press Releases

Algerian National Extradited From Thailand To Face Federal Cybercrime Charges In Atlanta For “SpyEye” Virus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2013

ATLANTA –Hamza Bendelladj, an Algerian national also known as “Bx1,” will be arraigned on Federal cybercrime charges for his role in developing, marketing, distributing, and operating the malicious computer virus “SpyEye.” 
 
“No violence or coercion was used to accomplish this scheme, just a computer and an Internet connection,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.  “Bendelladj’s alleged criminal reach extended across international borders, directly into victims’ homes.  In a cyber-netherworld, he allegedly commercialized the wholesale theft of financial and personal information through this virus which he sold to other cybercriminals.  Cybercriminals take note; we will find you.  This arrest and extradition demonstrates our determination to bring you to justice.”

“Hamza Bendelladj has been extradited to the United States to face charges of controlling and selling a nefarious computer virus designed to pry into computers and extract personal financial information,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman.  “The indictment charges Bendelladj and his co-conspirators with operating servers designed to control the personal computers of unsuspecting individuals and aggressively marketing their virus to other international cybercriminals intent on stealing sensitive information.  The extradition of Bendelladj to face charges in the United States demonstrates our steadfast determination to bring cybercriminals to justice, no matter where they operate.”

“The FBI has expanded its international partnerships to allow for such extraditions of criminals who know no borders,” stated Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office. “The federal indictment and extradition of Bendelladj should send a very clear message to those international cybercriminals who feel safe behind their computers in foreign lands that they are, in fact, within reach.”

Bendelladj, 24, was indicted by a Federal grand jury in Atlanta, GA. on December 20, 2011.  The 23-count indictment charges him with one count of conspiring to commit wire and bank fraud, ten counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and 11 counts of computer fraud.  Bendelladj was apprehended at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on January 5, 2013, while he was in transit from Malaysia to Egypt.  The indictment was unsealed on May 1, 2013.  Bendelladj was extradited from Thailand to the United States on May 2, 2013, and will be arraigned in United States District Court before United States Magistrate Judge Janet F. King.

According to court documents, the SpyEye virus is malicious computer code or “malware,” which is designed to automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information, such as online banking credentials, credit card information, usernames, passwords, PINs and other personally identifying information.  The SpyEye virus facilitates this theft of information by secretly infecting victims’ computers, enabling cybercriminals to remotely control the computers through command and control (C&C) servers.  Once a computer is infected and under the cybercriminals’ control, a victim’s personal and financial information can be surreptitiously collected using techniques such as “web injects,” which allow cybercriminals to alter the display of web pages in the victim’s browser in order to trick them into divulging personal information related to their financial accounts.  The financial data is then transmitted to the cybercriminals’ C&C servers, where criminals use it to steal money from the victims’ financial accounts. 

The indictment alleges that from 2009 to 2011, Bendelladj and others developed, marketed and sold various versions of the SpyEye virus and component parts on the Internet and allowed cybercriminals to customize their purchases to include tailor-made methods of obtaining victims’ personal and financial information.  Bendelladj allegedly advertised the SpyEye virus on Internet forums devoted to cybercrime and other criminal activities.   In addition, Bendelladj allegedly operated C&C servers, including a server located in the Northern District of Georgia, which controlled computers infected with the SpyEye virus.  One of the files on Bendelladj’s C&C server in the Northern District of Georgia allegedly contained information from approximately 253 unique financial institutions.

If convicted, Bendelladj faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; up to 20 years for each wire fraud count; up to five years for conspiracy to commit computer fraud; up to five or ten years for each count of computer fraud; and fines of up to $14 million dollars.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations.  A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Special Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas Oldham and Assistant United States Attorney Scott Ferber of the Northern District of Georgia, and Trial Attorney Carol Sipperly of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section are prosecuting the case.  Valuable assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, which worked with its international counterparts to effect the extradition.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.

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