SpyEye Malware Author Pleads Guilty

Aleksandr Andreevich Panin, a Russian national also known known as “Gribodemon” and “Harderman,” yesterday pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud in connection with his role as the primary developer and distributor of the SpyEye Trojan, which has infected more than 1.4 million computers worldwide (h/t Krebs on Security).

According to the FBI, from 2009 to 2011, Panin worked with others, including codefendant Hamza Bendelladj, a.k.a. “Bx1,” to develop and sell customized versions of SpyEye for prices ranging from $1,000 to $8,500. Panin is believed to have sold the virus to at least 150 clients, one of whom, “Soldier,” earned more than $3.2 million in six months using the malware.

In June and July of 2011, FBI covert sources communicated online with Panin, then purchased a version of the SpyEye malware from him. Bendelladj was arrested in Thailand on January 5, 2013, and Panin was arrested at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on July 1, 2013. Four of Panin’s clients and associates have also been arrested in the U.K. and Bulgaria.

“Given the recent revelations of massive thefts of financial information from large retail stores across the country, Americans do not need to be reminded how devastating it is when cyber criminals surreptitiously install malicious codes on computer networks and then siphon away private information from unsuspecting consumers,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said in a statement. “Today, thanks to the tireless work of prosecutors and law enforcement agents, Aleksandr Panin has admitted to his orchestration of this criminal scheme to use ‘SpyEye’ to invade the privacy of Americans by infecting their computers through a dangerous botnet.”

Panin is scheduled to be sentenced on April 29, 2014.

Jeff Goldman
Jeff Goldman has been a technology journalist for more than 20 years and an eSecurity Planet contributor since 2009.

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