US prosecutors have charged five eastern Europeans with running a cyber crime and credit card theft ring which netted more than $300 million - one of the largest thefts of its kind.

Companies targeted included Nasdaq, Visa, Dow Jones, 7-Eleven, JetBlue Airways and the French supermarket giant, Carrefour, prosecutors said in the indictments announced on Thursday.

The indictment named four men living in Russia and one man in Ukraine, and cited Albert Gonzalez as a co-conspirator. He is serving 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to helping mastermind one of the biggest hacking fraud schemes in US history, helping steal millions of credit and debit cards.

It was not immediately clear how those cases overlapped with the ones announced on Thursday.

Two Russians have  been arrested, prosecutors said, and three other suspects remain at large.

Data breaches

The indictment said that between 2005 and last year, the five men and four co-conspirators ran a high-profile hacking ring that was responsible for several of the largest known data breaches to date.

Prosecutors said they conservatively estimate that the group stole at least 160 million credit card numbers, resulting in losses in excess of $300 million. 

The hacking ring sold the payment card numbers to resellers, who then sold them on online forums or to "cashers" who encode the numbers onto blank plastic cards that are used to buy goods or withdraw money from ATMs in what is known as a debit card dump.

Among the breaches cited in the case, prosecutors charged that the group was responsible for the theft of more than 130 million credit card numbers from US payment processor Heartland Payment Systems beginning in December 2007, resulting in approximately $200 million of losses. 

It said the gang stole log-in credentials from Nasdaq after planting malicious software on the company's computers in 2007. 

Unverified by Visa

It charged that they took approximately 30 million payment card numbers from British company Commidea in 2008 and 800,000 card numbers from Visa licensee Visa Jordan in 2011.

An attack on Global Payment Systems that begin in about January 2011 resulted in the theft of more than 950,000 cards and losses of about $93 million, according to the indictment.  

It charged the ring with stealing approximately two million credit card numbers from Carrefour, beginning as early as October 2007 and 4.2 million card numbers from US grocer Hannaford Brothers.

It said the theft of card numbers from Dexia Bank Belgium resulted in $1.7 million in losses.

Source: Agencies