The United States and other governments have cracked down on the group behind two of the world’s worst computer viruses, officials announced Monday.
Both schemes — the “Gameover Zeus Botnet” and the “Cryptolocker” virus — infected hundreds of thousands of computers and stole millions of dollars from victims around the world, the officials said.
U.S. and foreign law-enforcement officials said they seized servers and disabled both viruses, and the Justice Department filed charges against Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, a Russian national whom the U.S. alleges is the leader of a group behind both schemes.
“Evgeniy Bogachev and the members of his criminal network devised and implemented the kind of cybercrimes that you might not believe if you saw them in a science-fiction movie,” Leslie Caldwell, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said.
Gameover Zeus silently spied on and even controlled infected computers, the officials said. The virus intercepted bank account numbers and passwords, allowing the hackers to empty their victims’ bank accounts, according to the charges.
Gameover Zeus controlled a network of between 500,000 and 1 million computers around the world, security researchers estimate.
The Justice Department obtained court orders to block the victims’ computers from communicating with the hackers’ servers, and set up substitute servers instead. More than 300,000 victim computers have been freed from the hackers, and that number is expected to increase in the coming days, the Justice Department said.
While Gameover Zeus worked quietly to steal financial information, the Cryptolocker wasn’t so subtle. The Justice Department says that the hackers seized control of computers and demanded that the victims pay hundreds of dollars to unlock their files.
“The criminals effectively held for ransom every private email, business plan, child’s science project, or family photograph — every single important and personal file stored on the victim’s computer,” Caldwell said. “In order to get their data back, computer owners had to hand over their cash. As with Gameover Zeus, once you learned you were infected with the Cryptolocker malware, it was too late.”
U.S. officials said they seized computer servers central to the Cryptolocker scheme. The virus infected more than 234,000 computers, half of them in the U.S., according to security researchers.
What We're Following See More »
The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
"An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agree to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks. Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding."
The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.
The U.S. deployed "F-35 joint strike fighters" to Estonia on Tuesday. The "jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces." The move comes at a time of high tension between the U.S. and Estonia's neighbor, Russia. The two nations have been at odds over a number of issues recently, most of all being Vladimir Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people in the midst of a civil war.