Estonian citizen plunged into the biggest scam with bank credit cards
The US Department of Justice reported charging eleven individuals who are suspected of large-scale fraud with bank credit cards. Among the accused are citizens of the USA, Ukraine, China, Belarus and Estonia. Their case will be tried in federal court in New York.
The Associated Press news agency, citing the US federal prosecutor’s office, reported that the accused were incriminated for theft and further resale of data on 41 million credit and debit cards. This is the largest in the history of the United States occurred within four years, a scam with bank credit cards.
Presumably, the head of the entire fraudulent network was someone Albert Gonzales (who used the nickname “Segvec” and “SoupNazi” when communicating on the Internet), who lives in Miami.
This Gonzales is a very dark person. He was spinning in a criminal environment, while also being an informant for US intelligence. At some point, the American “cops” realized that their “snitch” was passing confidential information to his accomplices, hackers. At least once, he warned a “colleague” about his arrest being prepared. Alberta Gonzales was arrested in May of this year.
According to the US federal prosecutor’s office, the property of Albert Gonzales is estimated at 1.65 million dollars, he owns a house in Miami and a 2006 BMW car.
The second key figure of this criminal virtual grouping is Maxim Yastremsky (“Maksik”), who lived in Ukraine, in Kharkov.
Yastremsky was arrested last July in Turkey, where he spent his vacation with another well-known (in certain circles) hacker, Israeli citizen Maxim Turchak. Both were detained by Turkish police at a nightclub in the resort of Kemer, where they were entertained in a society of women of easy virtue.
Yastremsky found two fake passports, and in his laptop – information about five thousand credit cards of US citizens and EU member countries, as well as programs that are used to hack closed computer networks. Information about credit cards found at Yastremsky gave access to funds in excess of one hundred million dollars. Presumably, Yastremsky was going to sell this criminal information to Turkish accomplices.
They did not find any evidence against Turchak, and he was soon released.
At the same time, there were reports that Maxim Yastremsky allegedly works for the Al Qaeda international terrorist organization. These reports have caused such a strong response that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine had to make a special statement, denying rumors about Yastremsky’s cooperation with Islamist terrorists.
Yastremsky is still under arrest in Turkey. The US authorities are seeking his extradition to the American special services. According to the Miami Herald newspaper, Maxim Yastremsky “earned” over $ 11 million on the sale of data stolen from a credit card.
Another member of this triumvirate is Alexander Suvorov (“Jonny Hell”), an Estonian citizen born and raised in the small town of Sillamäe in northeastern Estonia.
US intelligence agents arrested Suvorov in March of this year at the Frankfurt-am-Main International Airport. The US federal prosecutor’s office is accusing him, above all, of selling stolen credit card data. Currently, Alexander Suvorov is awaiting extradition to the United States in a German prison.
The US authorities have several times appealed to the law enforcement authorities of Estonia to assist in the investigation of this case. More precisely, those of his episodes that are associated with the activities of Suvorov. The Estonian Central Criminal Police helped American colleagues. Referring to the confidentiality, the press service of the Police Department does not report on the details of the operational and investigative measures taken. It is only known that earlier Alexander Suvorov was not involved in criminal or administrative liability in Estonia. Although, according to some sources, Suvorov was put on the international wanted list back in 2005.
Mechanism of computer hacking
In total, Gonzales, Yastremsky and Suvorov are charged with 27 criminal acts. If found guilty, they can be sentenced to life imprisonment. Curiously, but, apparently, these three never met each other. They communicated with each other on Internet forums where they discussed the details of their “deals” and “schemes”.
The US intelligence services went on the trail of a criminal gang after a statement to the police, received in September last year from the main office of the Dave & Buster’s restaurant chain. Dave & Buster’s management has discovered the theft of customer credit card data from cash register computers installed in restaurants. In the course of the investigation, it turned out that hackers who were not identified at that time received data from credit cards (VISA, Mastercard and American Express) more than five thousand customers of the restaurant chain. These data were used to make purchases around the world in the amount of about 600 thousand dollars.
The case was not limited to the computer networks of Dave & Buster’s restaurants. Using information from various sources, we managed to recreate the “scheme” by which hackers-crackers acted.
Albert Gonzales traveled around the cities of the USA with his laptop, trying with the help of a special, so-called “Spyware” computer programs (sniffer programs) to penetrate computer networks of stores. Through the WiFi wireless internet system, Gonzales searched for technically vulnerable computer networks. If he did it, then he would copy the data of bank cards (credit card numbers, PIN codes and account information) to servers in Latvia and Ukraine through his computer. Later, investigators found more than 41 million bank card numbers on these two servers.
Then Yastremsky and Suvorov were taken into action, who for thousands of dollars sold this data of bank cards to other criminals in the USA, countries of Eastern Europe, and also in China, Thailand and the Philippines. After that, the criminals themselves produced “bank cards”, plotting stolen data from real cards on a magnetic tape. Then everything looked very simple. Using fake credit cards, swindlers at ATMs around the world have withdrawn tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
To date, the US investigative agencies have not been able to fully calculate the damage caused by criminals to ordinary people, shops and banks. But it is clear that the amount of damage caused by them exceeds tens of millions of dollars. Most of the victims are from the USA. But, perhaps, the victims of crooks show up in other countries.
Suvorov was arrested illegally
US intelligence agents feel at ease in Germany too
In Germany, a political discussion flared up in connection with the arrest by agents of the American special services in Frankfurt am Main of an Estonian citizen Alexander Suvorov. A number of lawyers and politicians point to the illegality of the actions of US law enforcement agencies in Germany.
A lawyer, Alexander Suvorov, submitted to the court a statement about the unlawful imprisonment of his client. According to the lawyer, the US intelligence services did not have the legal right to arrest Suvorov in Germany.
Opposition deputies of the Bundestag sent a request to the federal government with a request to clarify what measures the government intends to take in order to prevent the illegal activities of the American special services in Germany in the future.
– I read an article about a hacker from Estonia who, together with his accomplices, “opened up” American computer networks. Probably a talented guy. I would be quietly engaged in computers, earned decent money. And that he was drawn to the “slippery” trail?
Ekaterina Kasatkina, Riga
We tried to find out what kind of person was Alexander Suvorov, who was involved in the biggest scam in the history of the United States with theft of data from bank credit cards.
Suvorov grew up in the small town of Sillamäe, located in northeastern Estonia. He graduated from high school there in 2002. Who else can better talk about him, if not his countrymen and former classmates? But we immediately ran into difficulties. One of the residents of Sillamäe directly stated to us that “our people are not going to“ give out ”a fellow countryman for reproach”.
To understand the meaning of this phrase, it should be noted that the Russian-speaking Sillamae is a very specific city, which in Soviet times was “closed”. There was a “mailbox” – an enterprise of the military-industrial complex. And the contingent of city dwellers was formed corresponding – in the majority from highly skilled engineering and technical personnel. Therefore, it is not by chance that many representatives of the young generation of Sillamäe people display outstanding abilities in exact sciences. In addition, the sense of community they have developed quite strongly.
Nevertheless, we managed to learn something about Alexander Suvorov, “a typical four-seater”, as one of his former teachers put it. He did not stand out among his classmates with any special abilities, but he studied quite well. The teachers did not notice in him any particular cravings either for exact sciences or for computers. The character is quite calm. Sometimes he could flare up, but he did not hold anyone angry for a long time. Absolutely normal boy.
Immediately after graduating from the gymnasium, Alexander Suvorov left Sillamäe and after that almost did not appear in his hometown. With former classmates spoke little. There was talk that Suvorov became a hacker, but no one really knew anything.
We talked with some Tallinn computer scientists, people from the “Russian” north-east of Estonia. According to them, among the local boys, interest in computers and all kinds of Internet “tricks” increased dramatically ten years ago. Rumor has it that even then, in that region, the theft of money through the Internet was quite common among the “computer-advanced” boys. Some of them proudly called themselves “carders” (from the English. – “carder”). They communicated with each other and shared their experiences on how to get “some money” through the Internet. Among them, it was not considered a crime.
“Karders” -mothers constantly came across. Therefore, interest in this kind of hacking activity gradually faded away. But probably not at all. As evidenced by the case of Alexander Suvorov.
On Tuesday, the US authorities charged the theft and resale of personal data from millions of bank cards to 11 detainees from five countries, including Alexander, a former Estonian resident of Sillamäe, Alexander Suvorov.
According to information from the US Federal Prosecutor’s Office, an international gang stole the data of 41 million bank cards for four years by introducing store chains into the computer communication systems and hacking their database with uncomplicated software.
The Case of Hell Johnny
According to the authorities, the criminals acted as follows: Albert Gonzalez, the leader of the gang living in Miami, traveled around the city with a laptop, trying to get into the computer networks of shops via wireless Internet.
In case of success, they copied the data of customers’ bank cards: their numbers, PIN-codes and other information in the Ukrainian and Latvian servers, AP reported. On one of them, investigators found the data of 25 million bank cards, on the other – 16 million.
After that, a gang for thousands of dollars over the Internet sold the information obtained to other criminals from different countries, including the United States, Eastern Europe, China, Thailand and the Philippines. Both the “sellers” and the “buyers” entered the stolen data into empty bank cards, and then, through ATMs, took tens of thousands of dollars from the accounts of their victims.
According to US Attorney General Michael Mukasey, it is still not possible to assess the total damage that criminals have caused consumers, shops and banks, but you should think that it amounts to tens of millions of dollars. According to the US authorities, this is the largest and most complex case of identity theft in US judicial practice.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the gang members were not any special computer geniuses, but used traditional equipment and affordable software to enter the computer networks using WiFi technology and install so-called sniffers in them — network analyzers that allow you to download information about bank cards used in stores.
Among the 11 people indicted, three are citizens of the United States, three are from Ukraine, two are from China, and one is from each of Estonia and Belarus. The origin of one suspect, called Delpiero, is unknown.
So far, only three have been taken into custody: the leader of Gonzalez, the Ukrainian from Kharkov Maxim Yastremsky (“Maksik”) and Alexand Suvorov (“Johnny Hell” – “Hell Johnny”).
Estonian citizen Suvorov was detained at the airport of Frankfurt am Main on March 3 of this year. The German edition of Spiegel dramatically describes the details of the detention of Suvorov in Germany. US intelligence agents detained a sillamäe hacker right before his flight to Bali, where he was going to rest with his girlfriend Vika.
Now he is sitting in a German prison and waiting for the end of the procedure for issuing it to the United States.
He was ruined by greed
Alexander Suvorov graduated from the Kannuk Sillamäe School in 2002. His class teacher, Sergei Isaev, recalls the arrested hacker as “a normal guy who did not have enough stars from the sky.” According to him, it was not noticeable that he was keen on computers.
The classmates of the accused, whom they managed to reach, said that at school Alexander had little contact with them, they were in no hurry to share their memories.
Also managed to communicate with people who know Alexander personally. Seeing him in the photo, they only noted that the guy has changed a lot. Over the years, he gained weight.
In general, apparently, Alexander no longer lives in Estonia and very few people in Sillamäe know about the last years of his life.
Literate computer scientists, who could be called hackers conditionally, if they had used their knowledge for illegal purposes, expressed themselves extremely laconically in relation to Alexander: he jumped. According to some reports, Alexander was doing almost the same thing while in Estonia, but then it was still a relatively new crime. Since then, they have learned how to deal with it effectively.
In slang, this type of fraud is called “carding”. In the late 1990s, in the era of a completely wild Internet and loud hacking hacks, some students earned their own pocket money.
– Sillamäe is not a very simple city in terms of hacking, which was especially developed in the late 90s – early 2000s. Those who are smarter, legalized and now work in Tallinn in their offices. But others, as they say, were killed by greed, ”said one of these former schoolchildren.
Another computer specialist from Ida-Virumaa said that carding was in vogue ten years ago. Carders in the language of computer scientists – people who steal money from credit cards.
– Constantly in the companies they talked about someone who thus “takes a little” to life. It was not even considered a special crime between us, ”the computer genius who has now moved to Tallinn said.