Three men charged in relation to “most financially destructive computer virus in history”

January 27, 2013

Three European men have been indicted for their part in allegedly creating and distributing the infamous Gozi virus, which the FBI claims was "one of the most financially destructive computer viruses in history".

The Gozi virus was a piece of malware discovered in 2007, designed to collect and relay the personal bank account information of computer users back to a series of computer servers controlled by cyber criminals.

It is notable for having been highly sophisticated, engineered to be undetectable by antivirus software. The FBI estimates that more than one million computers worldwide were at some stage infected with the Gozi virus, including computers belonging to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The accused, Nikita Kuzmin, Deniss Calovskis and Mihai Ionut, were all arrested between November 2010 and November 2012 following a long-term FBI investigation into the source of the virus.

Each man has been charged with a range of offences, including bank fraud, computer intrusion and access device fraud, and if found guilty could face maximum jail sentences ranging between 60 and 90 years in prison.

Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara compared the operation to a "modern day bank robbery ring", noting that the accused men targeted banks because "that's where the money is".

"This case should serve as a wake-up call to banks and consumers alike, because cyber crime remains one of the greatest threats we face, and it is not going away any time soon," said Mr Bharara in a statement released January 23.

Organisations in the Australian financial sector may want to take note of this incident as a timely reminder of the importance of ensuring ongoing vulnerability management, in order to mitigate the risk of being infected by malware such as the Gozi virus.

"As we have seen with increasing frequency, cyber criminals’ bank heists require neither a mask nor a gun, just a clever program and an Internet connection," said Mr Bharara.

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