12 suspected cybercriminals arrested in Russia along with Blackhole creator

The suspects are charged with creating and participating in a criminal organization

Thirteen people, including the creator of Blackhole, a popular exploit tool used to infect computers with malware, were arrested and charged in Russia with creating and participating in a criminal organization.

The gang specialized in stealing money from the bank accounts of individuals and organizations by using computer Trojan programs to gain unauthorized access to legally protected information like log-in information, passwords, electronic keys and certificates, the Russian Ministry of Interior said Friday in an announcement in Russian.

The malware was installed on computers by exploiting software vulnerabilities using the Blackhole exploit kit, a very popular attack tool among cybercriminals, according to Russian authorities.

The information stolen by the malware was collected on a network of command-and-control servers operated by the suspects and was subsequently used to set up fraudulent payment orders on behalf of the victims. The recipients of the stolen funds were individuals or entities controlled by members of the gang.

The group's activity affected customers of Russian banks in the Moscow, Tyumen, Ulyanovsk, Krasnodar, Petrozavodsk and Kursk regions and the damage is estimated at 70 million Russian roubles (over US$2.1 million), the ministry said.

The information that the creator of Blackhole, a man who used the online identity "Paunch," was arrested got leaked online in early October by people familiar with the investigation.

Paunch, who is 27, was arrested on Oct. 4 and was residing in Togliatti, a city in Samara Oblast, Russia, according to Group-IB, a cybercrime investigations firm that assisted the Russian police in the case. His name has not been disclosed by the Russian Ministry of Interior or Group-IB.

Aside from the Blackhole exploit kit, Paunch also created the Cool Exploit Kit and Crypt.am, a service for obfuscating malware code to prevent its detection by antivirus programs, Group-IB said in a report sent Friday via email.

One interesting aspect of this case is that the suspects were charged with offenses under article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, which is not directly related to computer crimes.

"There are two main articles in the Criminal Code: 272 (unauthorized access to information) and 273 (creation and distribution of malicious code), which should be very well linked with this particular case," said Andrey Komarov, the CEO of IntelCrawler, a Los Angeles-based security intelligence startup, via email. "Hopefully, they won't be forgotten."

Komarov believes that Paunch's activities fall under these two articles and that if they're not used in his prosecution, he might not even serve jail time. This is what his lawyers are potentially working on now, he said.

His arrest is the most important aspect of the case, because Blackhole was used by many cybercriminals, not only from Russia, but also from other countries in Europe and Asia, Komarov said. "I hope that after his arrest other cybercriminals will be uncovered and hopefully it will be done together with the international law enforcement community."

Russian prosecutors are focusing on victims from Russia to build the criminal case locally, but Blackhole was used to distribute many online banking Trojan programs whose victims include customers of banks from all over the world, including the E.U. and the U.S., Komarov said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cybercrimemalwarelegalspywareonline safetyintrusionCriminalAccess control and authenticationExploits / vulnerabilitiesGroup-IBIntelCrawler

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Lucian Constantin

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?