Pavel Vrublevsky, founder of the Russian payment technology firm ChronoPay and the antagonist in my 2014 book “Spam Nation,” was arrested in Moscow this month and charged with fraud. Russian authorities allege Vrublevsky operated several fraudulent SMS-based payment schemes, and facilitated money laundering for Hydra, the largest Russian darknet market. But according to information obtained by KrebsOnSecurity, it is equally likely Vrublevsky was arrested thanks to his propensity for carefully documenting the links between Russia’s state security services and the cybercriminal underground.
An online criminal enterprise, as tightly structured as any legitimate business corporation, was exposed in 2010. Emails and documents stolen from employees of ChronoPay — Russia’s largest online payments processor — were shared with a select group of law enforcement agencies and with KrebsOnSecurity.com. The communications provide the strongest evidence yet that a notorious rogue online pharmacy and other shady enterprises are controlled by ChronoPay executives and employees.
The leaked ChronoPay email show that in August 2010 ChronoPay CEO Pavel Vrublevsky authorized a payment of 37,350 Russian Rubles (about $1,200) for a multi-user license of an Intranet service called MegaPlan. The documents indicate that Vrublevsky ordered the service to help manage the sprawling projects related to ChronoPay’s “black” operations, including the processing of payments for rogue anti-virus software, violent “rape” porn sites, and knockoff prescription drugs sold through hundreds of Web sites affiliated with a rogue online pharmacy program called Rx-Promotion.com.
ChronoPay employees were assigned MegaPlan accounts to track payment processing issues, order volumes and advertising partnerships for these black programs. In a move straight out of the Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs, the employees adopted nicknames like “Mr. Kink, Mr. Heppner,” and “Ms. Nati.” MegaPlan offers an application that makes it simple for clients to create organizational charts, and the account paid for by ChronoPay includes a chart showing the hierarchy and reporting structure of these divisions.