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US Takes Down Five In Credit Card Scheme

Jul 27, 13 US Takes Down Five In Credit Card Scheme

Credit card hacking has become such a common occurrence that a friend of mine checks her credit card activity online each day. That may sound excessive, but her various accounts have been compromised enough times that the time it takes each day is worth it to her. I’ve had my card compromised a few times in the past few years, and am almost at the point of checking daily. Hopefully, I can relax a little, along with the rest of us.

Five men, four Russian nationals and a Ukranian, have been charged with running a credit card hacking scheme between 2005 and 2012 amounting to hacking more than 160 million credit and debit cards, CNN Money reported. We can only hope that five more, or 500,000 more criminals don’t sprout up in their absence.

The hackers infiltrated computer networks of more than a dozen major American and international companies. Companies included retailers and businesses that conduct financial transactions and transmit financial data. A few businesses named include J.C. Penney, Wet Seal, 7-Eleven, Nasdaq, JetBlue and Dow Jones, though there were many more.

Charges state that the hackers took user names and passwords, identification credentials, credit and debit card numbers, and corresponding personal identification information of cardholders, CNN said.

The US Attorney’s office said this was the largest credit card breach scheme ever prosecuted in the US, and has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

“Those who have the expertise and the inclination to break into our computer networks threaten our economic well-being, our privacy, and our national security,” said US Attorney Paul Fishman, in a statement.

Part of me is quite happy that this ring of hackers has been taken down. However, they are not alone. They have plenty more colleagues out there who try every day to break into my accounts and get valuable information they can turn into money. Additionally, these guys didn’t gain directly from these credit card breaches; they sold information to others. It’s good that future activities were cut off at the source, but I do hope they also go after the buyers who use that information to steal every cent they can get their hands on.

Credit card companies don’t take those false charges lightly, and apparently neither does the government. These charges show the efforts that the major companies, as well as the government, will go to catch the bad guys. Let’s hope this continues and reduces illegal activities on this front.

What is not clear is what resources the US government has to get these criminals to the US in order to prosecute them. Hopefully, these are not empty charges that will go without prosecution and allow these criminals to continue operations. As it stands, charges are being stacked up on this gang.

Two men, Vladimir Drinkman and Alexandr Kalinin, were previously charged in New Jersey in connection with five corporate data breaches. The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also brought up two additional indictments against Kalinin. Those charges were for hacking servers used by the financial securities market Nasdaq, and an international scheme to steal bank account information by hacking US-based financial institutions.

The other three involved in the gang include Mikhail Rytikov and Dmitriy Smilianets

The unfortunate realization here is that hacking has become big business. Uncovering hacking rings such as this show that hacking and data theft has become an industry for organized crime. Why take the risk to move drugs when you can steal that much cash without even leaving the house, or at least with much less effort. No borders to cross, no goods to smuggle, and no danger of a shoot out with rival drug gangs. The territories are borderless. Gangs can find and infiltrate venerable servers from anywhere in the world with little trail or recourse from the affected businesses.

We need to make the take down of such organizations big business and take away their power.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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