Authorities in the United States and United Kingdom today levied financial sanctions against seven men accused of operating “Trickbot,” a cybercrime-as-a-service platform based in Russia that has enabled countless ransomware attacks and bank account takeovers since its debut in 2016. The U.S. Department of the Treasury says the Trickbot group is associated with Russian intelligence services, and that this alliance led to the targeting of many U.S. companies and government entities.
Julius “Zeekill” Kivimäki, a 25-year-old Finnish man charged with extorting a local online psychotherapy practice and leaking therapy notes for more than 22,000 patients online, was arrested this week in France. A notorious hacker convicted of perpetrating tens of thousands of cybercrimes, Kivimäki had been in hiding since October 2022, when he failed to show up in court and Finland issued an international warrant for his arrest.
Denis Emelyantsev, a 36-year-old Russian man accused of running a massive botnet called RSOCKS that stitched malware into millions of devices worldwide, pleaded guilty to two counts of computer crime violations in a California courtroom this week. The plea comes just months after Emelyantsev was extradited from Bulgaria, where he told investigators, “America is looking for me because I have enormous information and they need it.”
Most people who operate DDoS-for-hire services attempt to hide their true identities and location. Proprietors of these so-called “booter” or “stresser” services — designed to knock websites and users offline — have long operated in a legally murky area of cybercrime law. But until recently, their biggest concern wasn’t avoiding capture or shutdown by the feds: It was minimizing harassment from unhappy customers or victims, and insulating themselves against incessant attacks from competing DDoS-for-hire services.
And then there are booter store operators like John Dobbs, a 32-year-old computer science graduate student living in Honolulu, Hawaii. For at least a decade until late last year, Dobbs openly operated IPStresser[.]com, a popular and powerful attack-for-hire service that he registered with the state of Hawaii using his real name and address. Likewise, the domain was registered in Dobbs’s name and hometown in Pennsylvania.
The only work experience Dobbs listed on his resume was as a freelance developer from 2013 to the present day. Dobbs’s resume doesn’t name his booter service, but in it he brags about maintaining websites with half a million page views daily, and “designing server deployments for performance, high-availability and security.”
In December 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice seized Dobbs’s IPStresser website and charged him with one count of aiding and abetting computer intrusions. Prosecutors say his service attracted more than two million registered users, and was responsible for launching a staggering 30 million distinct DDoS attacks.
Identity thieves have been exploiting a glaring security weakness in the website of Experian, one of the big three consumer credit reporting bureaus. Normally, Experian requires that those seeking a copy of their credit report successfully answer several multiple choice questions about their financial history. But until the end of 2022, Experian’s website allowed anyone to bypass these questions and go straight to the consumer’s report. All that was needed was the person’s name, address, birthday and Social Security number.
Two U.S. men have been charged with hacking into the Ring home security cameras of a dozen random people and then “swatting” them — falsely reporting a violent incident at the target’s address to trick local police into responding with force. Prosecutors say the duo used the compromised Ring devices to stream live video footage on social media of police raiding their targets’ homes, and to taunt authorities when they arrived.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today seized four-dozen domains that sold “booter” or “stresser” services — businesses that make it easy and cheap for even non-technical users to launch powerful Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks designed knock targets offline. The DOJ also charged six U.S. men with computer crimes related to their alleged ownership of the popular DDoS-for-hire services.
In December 2021, Google filed a civil lawsuit against two Russian men thought to be responsible for operating Glupteba, one of the Internet’s largest and oldest botnets. The defendants, who initially pursued a strategy of counter suing Google for tortious interference in their sprawling cybercrime business, later brazenly offered to dismantle the botnet in exchange for payment from Google. The judge in the case was not amused, found for the plaintiff, and ordered the defendants and their U.S. attorney to pay Google’s legal fees.
A financial cybercrime group calling itself the Disneyland Team has been making liberal use of visually confusing phishing domains that spoof popular bank brands using Punycode, an Internet standard that allows web browsers to render domain names with non-Latin alphabets like Cyrillic and Ukrainian.