5 charged in largest hacking breach in US history

More than a dozen victims were targeted, including Dow Jones, Nasdaq, Visa, 7-Eleven, and J.C. Penney.

By Julie K Balise Jul 25, 2013 5:25PM

Four Russian nationals and one Ukrainian have been charged in connection with a massive hacking ring that targeted at least 160 million credit and debit cards and led to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, CNBC's Andrea Day reported Thursday.


More than a dozen U.S. and international victims were targeted, including Dow Jones, Nasdaq, Visa (V), 7-Eleven, and J.C. Penney (JCP). Three corporate victims lost more than $300 million, according to the report.


The hacking allegedly went on for seven years.

Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey, announced the indictments in Newark, N.J., Thursday. He called it the largest hacking and data breach ever prosecuted in the U.S.


"They targeted some of the largest companies in the world," Fishman said, "stealing millions of credit and debit card numbers and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to their victims."


Prosecutors told CNBC that hackers penetrated computer networks and covertly removed card numbers and personal information. This was sold and encoded onto magnetic strips on blank plastic cards, which would be used to cash out the accounts. Information about one credit card coming from the U.S. sold for $10, Day said in the report.


Personal Information, Social Security Number, and Security © Fuse/Fuse/Getty ImagesTaking the biggest hit in the scheme was Heartland Payment Systems Inc., which had more than 130 million credit card numbers stolen, according to The Associated Press. The firm incurred losses of around $200 million.


The AP reported that about 1 million credit card numbers were stolen from Global Payment Systems, an Atlanta company that suffered a loss of almost $93 million.


Suspects have been identified as Russians Vladimir Drinkman, Aleksander Kalinin, Roman Kotov and Dmitriy Smilianets, and Ukrainian Mikhail Rytikov. Smilianets is in U.S. custody, while Drinkman is being held in the Netherlands. The other three suspects are at large.


Day read from the indictment to illustrate the suspects' attitude toward hacking Wet Seal and Nasdaq's networks. In one text message a suspect said, "Nasdaq is owned."


"These guys were so relentless, they would spend hour after hour, day after day hunched over their computers just to get this information," Day said in the report.


Fishman said the five individuals charged are leaders in the hacking operation. These individuals stole data and sold it to people who cashed out.


"By arresting two of the key players and identifying three of the others we believe we have taken a major step toward dismantling this organization," Fishman said.


The hacking ring targeted computer serves all over the world, including the U.S., Ukraine, Bahamas, Netherlands, and Germany.


All five suspects have been charged with taking part in computer hacking conspiracy and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Drinkman, Kalinin, Kotov, and Smilianets have been charged with multiple counts of unauthorized computer access and wire fraud.


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Tags: CrimeJCPV
Jul 25, 2013 6:40PM
and the death penalty should be in play.
Jul 26, 2013 4:48AM
They deserve nothing less than a rope and a tree. An injection is too good for these low-life criminals.
Jul 25, 2013 5:52PM
Hopefully they stole my card information.  I'd have a good chuckle if they spent a bunch of time stealing the $3 I have in the bank.
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