Three men have been indicted in the US for allegedly stealing information from at least 130 million credit and debit cards in the largest hacking and identity theft case in the country's history.
Albert Gonzales, a former government informant, was indicted on Monday along with two unnamed Russians for allegedly hacking into computer networks between 2006 and 2008 to steal banking information, prosecutors said.
They were charged with conspiracy to gain unauthorised access to computers, to commit fraud in connection with computers and to damage computers, as well as conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Each faces up to 35 years in prison and big fines if convicted.
Among the organisations the three allegedly targeted were Heartland Payment Systems, a card payment processor; 7-Eleven, a US convenience store company and Hannaford Brothers, a supermarket chain.
Prosecutors said the suspects targeted large corporations by scanning the list of Fortune 500 companies and exploring corporate websites before setting out to identify vulnerabilities.
One of the methods employed was to carry our surveillance at retail locations to identify the type of card machines used before hacking through the firewalls or security software of the computer networks supporting the retailer.
They would then seek to sell the data to others who would use it to make fraudulent purchases, prosecutors said.
The stolen information was allegedly sent to computer servers in California, Illinois, Latvia, the Netherlands and Ukraine.
Gonzales, a 28-year-old from Miami who is already in federal custody, was charged in May 2008 by authorities in New York for his alleged role in the hacking of a computer network run by a national restaurant chain.
He is expected to appear in court to answer the charges next month.