Ukrainian Citizen Admits Using Army Of 13,000 Infected Computers To Loot Log-In Credentials, Payment Card Data
NEWARK, N.J. – The administrator of two criminal online hacking forums today admitted stealing log-in and payment card data as part of an international hacking conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Sergey Vovnenko, a/k/a “Sergey Vovnencko,” “Tomas Rimkis,” “Flycracker,” “Flyck,” “Fly,” “Centurion,” “MUXACC1,” “Stranier,” and “Darklife,” 29, most recently of Naples, Italy, pleaded guilty before the U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court to Count One and Count Three of an indictment charging him with wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.
Vovnenko was arrested on June 13, 2014, following an international investigation led by the U.S. Secret Service in coordination with Italian law enforcement. He had been detained by the Italian authorities pending the resolution of extradition proceedings, which he contested for more than 15 months.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From September 2010 through August 2012, Vovnenko and his conspirators operated an international criminal organization that hacked into the computers of individual users and companies located in the United States and elsewhere. They used that access to steal user names and passwords for bank accounts and other online services, as well as debit and credit card numbers and related personal identifying information.
Vovnenko admitted that, in order to steal this data, he operated a “botnet” – more than 13,000 computers infected with malicious computer software – programmed to gain unauthorized access to computers and to identify, store, and export information from hacked computers. A number of the infected computers were located in New Jersey. Vovnenko admitted using malware known as “Zeus” to steal banking information and record the keystrokes of the users of infected computers.
According to the indictment, Vovnenko was a high-level administrator of several online criminal forums and used his position to traffic in the data he stole as part of the conspiracy. These forums featured electronic bulletin boards, which members used to publicly communicate with all members and also send private messages directly to individual members.
The public and private discussions on these forums typically pertained to criminal activity, including the purchase, sale, and use of stolen log-in credentials and payment card data, as well as discussions related to cybercrime activity such as malicious computer hacking. For example, in August 2012, one of the forums offered various illicit products for sale, including access to compromised computer servers located in the United States. A price was listed for each product, and customers could click an “order” button and purchase the product using “credits” associated with their accounts.
The wire fraud conspiracy charge to which Vovnenko pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year sentence, to be served consecutively to the conspiracy charge. Sentencing is scheduled for May 2, 2016.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited the special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of Director Joseph P. Clancy, and special agents from the Newark Field Office, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Pleasant, with the ongoing investigation leading to today’s plea.
He also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs in Washington and its attaché in Rome; the Office of the U.S. Ambassador to the Italian Republic and the Republic of San Marino, John R. Phillips; and the Italian Ministry of Justice and Italian law enforcement officials for their extraordinary support.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Shapiro of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.
Defense Cousel: Timothy Anderson Esq., Red Bank, New Jersey