FBI offers $3M reward for Russian hacking suspect

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The FBI is offering a $3 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of a Russian hacking suspect, the highest bounty ever offered by US authorities in a cybercrime case.

Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev is accused of being the mastermind behind the GameOver Zeus botnet, which was used by cybercriminals to steal more than $100 million from businesses and consumers since 2011. A 14-count indictment unsealed last year charged Bogachev, 31, with conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

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“This reward offer reaffirms the commitment of the US Government to bring those who participate in organized crime to justice, whether they hide online or overseas,” the US Department of State said in a statement.

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The FBI believes that Bogachev is still living in Russia.

The record bounty for Bogachev comes amid increased efforts by the US government to stem the rise in cyberattacks, which the NSA estimates results in the loss each year of between $100 billion and $400 billion worth of intellectual property, according to Threat Post.

GameOver Zeus, which first emerged in 2011, is an offshoot of the original data-stealing Zeus Trojan that began appearing in 2007, the Justice Department said last year. However, its peer-to-peer structure differed from earlier variants of Zeus, which infected more than 13 million computers worldwide and led to losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The botnet was used to secretly infect between 500,000 and 1 million computers worldwide, with the goal of stealing banking credentials from unsuspecting computer users. Often downloaded on to unprotected computers from malicious websites created by cybercriminals, the malware could also be spread via phishing scams that entice users to click on a link or attachment that installs the malware on victims’ computers. A keylogger then recorded victims’ account numbers and log-ins, which were then transmitted to the botnet’s servers.

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The botnet was disrupted by a multinational law enforcement investigation that seized servers central to the administration of highly sophisticated malware called Cryptolocker, which encrypted victims’ computer files and was then used to demand a ransom of hundreds of dollars in exchange for the encryption key to unlock the files. In its first two months on the Internet, Crypolocker extorted more than $27 million in ransom payments, the Justice Department said last year.

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