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2 Russians charged in multimillion-dollar scheme that defrauded online banking customers

The Justice Department unsealed charges Thursday against two Russian men in what authorities said was one of the worst computer hacking and bank fraud schemes of the past decade.

Maksim V. Yakubets, 32, of Moscow, and Igor Turashev, 38, from Yoshkar-Ola, Russia, were charged in the 10-count indictment filed in federal court in Pittsburgh. The charges include conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud and bank fraud. The two men have not been arrested, and their whereabouts are unknown.

Prosecutors say the charges stem from the creation of malware known as “Bugat,” which was designed to automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information, including online banking logins, from infected computers. The malware, they say, was specifically designed to defeat antivirus software.

Yakubets, who used the online moniker “aqua,” and Turashev are accused of targeting two banks, a school district and four companies in Pennsylvania — a petroleum business, a building supply company, a vacuum and thin-film-deposition technology company, and a metal manufacturer — as well as a gun manufacturer. The attacks caused the theft of millions of dollars, prosecutors said.

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The malware allowed hackers to hijack a victim’s computer, present fake online banking webpages and trick the user into entering their personal information, investigators said.

“Today’s announcement should make clear to those engaged in cybercrime that we will identify you, we will unmask you, and we will prosecute you, no matter how much effort it requires or how long it takes,” said Assistant Atty. Gen. Brian Benczkowski, who heads the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Yakubets is also being charged, in a separate case in Nebraska, with conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with other malware, authorities said. Prosecutors allege that he worked with multiple co-conspirators to commit widespread computer intrusions, employ malicious software, and steal millions of dollars from numerous bank accounts in the United States and around the globe.

The State Department and the FBI are offering a $5-million reward for information leading to Yakubets’ arrest and conviction, which officials say is the largest reward ever offered for an accused cybercriminal.


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