U.S. authorities charge three over "Gozi" computer virus

Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:57pm EST
 

By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three foreign nationals have been charged with creating and distributing a computer virus that infected more than a million computers around the world, including some operated by the U.S. space agency, U.S. prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The defendants were charged with running a cybercrime ring that released the so-called Gozi virus, which prosecutors said was one of the most financially destructive computer viruses in history.

The virus infected at least 40,000 computers in the United States, authorities said. It was used to access personal bank account information from computer users and steal millions of dollars from customer accounts globally, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The defendants -- Deniss Calovskis, 27, a Latvian; Nikita Kuzmin, 25, a Russian; and Mihai Ionut Paunescu, 28, a Romanian -- were charged with a variety of counts, including conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

They ran a "modern-day bank robbery ring that required neither a gun nor a mask," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference.

Kuzmin, who helped create the virus, pleaded guilty in May 2011 and has been cooperating with the investigation, said George Venizelos, assistant director-in-charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York office.

The investigation is still "very much ongoing," Venizelos told the news conference.

Investigators have collected 51 computer servers and other equipment with some 250 million megabytes of information as part of the probe, he said, adding that law enforcement officials in several countries were helping with the investigation.   Continued...

 
The Department of Justice logo is seen on the podium during a news conference on the Gozi Virus in New York January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri