With more than 160 million stolen credit cards and hundreds of millions of dollars lost, the United States Department of Justice has launched what it is calling the largest U.S. hacking operation in the country’s history. While there are still three men at large, officials arrested Vladimir Drinkman and Dmitry Smilianets in June 2012, both from Russia and both accused of participating in the data breach schemes.
Damages from the Largest U.S. Hacking Scheme
The five alleged hackers have been running their operations since 2005. U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Paul Fishman, calls the case “the largest hacking and data breach scheme ever prosecuted in the United States.” Victims include corporations such as J.C. Penney, 7-Eleven, JetBlue, Heartland Payment Systems, Global Payment Systems, NASDAQ, Visa, Dow Jones, PNC Banks, and Citibank. Heartland Payment Systems took the biggest hit on damages from the largest U.S. hacking scheme with 130 million card numbers stolen and $200 million in losses.
Two Suspects Caught with Three More on the Run
Along with Drinkman and Smilianets, there are still three accomplices still on the run—Aleksander Kalinin and Roman Kotov from Russia and Mikhail Rytikov from the Ukraine. With the recent release of the suspects names, the United States Department of Justice is hoping to generate more leads on the whereabouts of their location.
A Sophisticated Operation
According to the indictment, each of the five accused men played specific roles in the U.S. hacking operation.
- Mikhail Rytikov hosted an anonymous Web server.
- Aleksander Kalinin and Vladimir Drinkman broke into the targeted sites.
- Roman Kotov harvested the credit card information.
- Dmitri Smilianets sold the credit card numbers.
The Largest U.S. Hacking Operation in American History
To prevent detection while stealing millions of credit card numbers, the five hackers managed to disable security systems on corporate networks. According to the New York Times, Kalinin stated in an instant message that the supermarket chain “Hannaford will spend millions to upgrade their security” and “they would better pay us to not hack them again.”
Communicating through encrypted messages, the five were able to steal the credit card numbers and then resell them through online forums or directly to people known as cashers. They typically sold American credit card numbers for $10, Canadian numbers for $15, and European ones for $50. European credit card numbers were the most expensive due to having greater security precautions like 3D Secure processing.
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