A local lumber company was among thousands of victims allegedly targeted for hacking conducted for over a decade by a Russian national.
Maksim V. Yakubets, also known as “Aqua,” 32, of Moscow was charged with engaging in two separate international computer hacking and bank fraud schemes spanning from May 2009 to the present. A second Russian man, Igor Turashev, 38, was also indicted in Pittsburgh for his role related to the malware conspiracy.
Federal officials alleged the men stole millions from thousands of businesses, organizations and individuals across the globe.
Court filings released Thursday contended the men were responsible for installing malware, without authorization, on an internet-connected computer used by Washington County-headquartered 84 Lumber in February. The indictment did not indicate how much, if any, money was stolen. The company is owned by Maggie Hardy Knox, who also owns Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, which was founded by her father Joseph A. Hardy.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh, where the indictment was filed, said information on the case was limited to what was provided in court paperwork.
“For over a decade, Maksim Yakubets and Igor Turashev led one of the most sophisticated transnational cybercrime syndicates in the world,” U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said Thursday. “Deploying ‘Bugat’ malware, also known as ‘Cridex’ and ‘Dridex,’ these cybercriminals targeted individuals and companies in western Pennsylvania and across the globe in one of the most widespread malware campaigns we have ever encountered. International cybercriminals who target Pennsylvania citizens and companies are no different than any other criminal: they will be investigated, prosecuted and held accountable for their actions.”
The indictment also accused the men of installing malware on Penneco Oil computers in Delmont. The hackers allegedly used the malware to access online banking credentials of the Westmoreland County-based petroleum company in 2012, transferring over $2.1 million from the business’s accounts.
The local businesses, officials said, were a few of many across the country and around the world targeted by the hackers.
The Pittsburgh-based grand jury returned a 10-count indictment against the men, charging them with conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud, and bank fraud, in connection with the distribution of “Bugat,” a multifunction malware package designed to automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information, such as online banking credentials, from infected computers. Later versions of the malware were designed with the added function of assisting in the installation of ransomware.
“Maksim Yakubets allegedly has engaged in a decade-long cybercrime spree that deployed two of the most damaging pieces of financial malware ever used and resulted in tens of millions of dollars of losses to victims worldwide,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “These two cases demonstrate our commitment to unmasking the perpetrators behind the world’s most egregious cyberattacks. The assistance of our international partners, in particular the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom, was crucial to our efforts to identify Yakubets and his co-conspirators.”
While the men are not in custody, the U.S. State Department, in partnership with the FBI, announced a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Yakubets. The reward is being offered through the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program and is the largest such reward to be offered for a cyber criminal to date.
FBI Deputy Director Bowdich said during a press conference that simply charging the men makes it more difficult to move around freely, enhancing the likelihood of capture.
“The long arm of the law, it does stretch throughout the world,” he said.
Bowdich urged both businesses and individuals to practice “cyber hygiene,” engaging in practices to ensure cyber data is safe and secure.
He said changing passwords and using a two-factor authentication as good first steps. A two-factor authentication requires a password and another step, like answering a personalized security question.
Not clicking on links from an unknown source is another big source protection, he said.
“Before you click, think hard. That’s the best advice I can give to people on that,” Bowdich said.