US and UK bust one of the worst cyber banking hacks in a decade, charging Russians in multi-million dollar scheme

Associated Press
The hackers stole millions of dollars, officials say - Getty Images North America

The US has charged two Russian men in connection with one of the worst computer hacking and bank fraud schemes of the past decade.

Maksim Yakubets, 32, of Moscow and Igor Turashev, 38, from Yoshkar-Ola, Russia were charged in the 10-count indictment filed in federal court in Pittsburgh.

The charges include conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud, and bank fraud. The two men have not been arrested and their whereabouts are unknown.

The pair were identified and charged after a years-long investigation by Britain's National Crime Agency and the FBI. US and British authorities are expected to detail further charges relating to the schemes later on Thursday.

The announcement characterised Mr Yakubets as being "allegedly responsible for two of the worst computer hacking and bank fraud schemes of the past decade."

Masim Yakubets, who led the cyber crime group and now has a $5m bounty on his head

Prosecutors say the charges stem from the creation of malware known as “Bugat,” which was designed to automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information, including online banking logins, from infected computers. The malware, they say, was specifically designed to defeat antivirus software.

Mr Yakubets, who used the online moniker “aqua,” and Mr Turashev are accused of targeting American banks and businesses for years. The attacks caused the theft of millions of dollars, prosecutors said.

The malware allowed hackers to hijack a victim’s computer, present fake online banking web pages and trick the user into entering their personal information, investigators said.

The NCA said "unprecedented collaboration between the NCA, the FBI and the National Cyber Security Centre" led to the charges Credit: PA

“Today’s announcement should make clear to those engaged in cyber crime that we will identify you, we will unmask you, and we will prosecute you, no matter how much effort it requires or how long it takes," said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, who heads the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Mr Yakubets is also being charged in a separate case in Nebraska with allegedly conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with other malware, authorities said. Prosecutors allege that he worked with multiple co-conspirators to commit widespread computer intrusions, employ malicious software, and steal millions of dollars from numerous bank accounts in the United States and around the globe.

The State Department and the FBI are offering a $5 million reward for information leading to Mr Yakubets’ arrest and conviction, which officials say is the largest reward ever offered for an accused cybercriminal.