Two of the most insidious and widespread types of malware have been "disrupted," and at least one man allegedly behind them has been indicted, according to an announcement today (June 2) by the United States Department of Justice.
In a partnership with security companies, experts and other countries' law-enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice helped orchestrate "Operation Tovar," a mission to identify the criminals behind the Gameover banking Trojan and the botnet it controls, as well as the Cryptolocker ransomware, and sabotage the associated crimeware campaigns.
According to Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole, the Gameover operation was successful and the group's alleged leader, Russian citizen Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh.
Gameover, adapted from the infamous ZeuS banking Trojan after the ZeuS source code was released in 2011, infects Windows computers worldwide and corrals them into a botnet, intercepts users' passwords and other financial information and uses the stolen credentials to make or redirect wire transfers from the bank accounts of infected users to accounts controlled by the criminals behind the malware. According to Cole, Gameover has been implicated in the theft of more than $100 million dollars from American victims alone.
The Gameover botnet has also been identified as the primary distributor of Cryptolocker, a type of ransomware which holds infected computers "ransom" by using encryption to render the files on them unreadable.
The 14-count indictment against Bogachev, who is believed to be in southern Russia, accuses him of acting as the administrator of the Gameover botnet. The counts include conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.
At the same time, an Omaha, Nebraska criminal complaint charges Bogachev with conspiracy to commit bank fraud in a separate case invovling a variant of the ZeuS malware called "Jabber ZeuS," after the instant-messaging software it used to communicate with its handlers.
A third civil injunction filed by the United States in the Pittsburgh federal court alleges that Bogachev is the leader of a cybercrime gang responsible for creating and operating both Gameover and Cryptolocker.
In addition, the Pittsburgh court also authorized U.S. law enforcement to intercept traffic between computers infected with Gameover and Cryptolocker and the servers controlling these malicious programs. For example, the FBI can collect the IP addresses of computers infected with these types of malware in order to help study them and devise defenses against them.
"At no point during the operation did the FBI or law enforcement access the content of any of the victims' computers or electronic communications," the Department of Justice announcement states.
However, judging by similar situations, it is highly unlikely that Bogachev will actually face trial in the US.
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Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She's currently Project Lead Writer at the games studio Harebrained Schemes, and has also worked at Bungie. Prior to that she worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation among many subjects.