US authorities are hunting for a Russian computer hacker accused of implanting viruses on hundreds of thousands of computers around the world that secretly seized customer banking information and stole more than $100m from businesses and consumers, the Justice Department said.
In unveiling the criminal case against 30-year-old Evgeniy Bogacgev on Monday, federal authorities said they disrupted European-based cyber threats that were sophisticated, lucrative and global.
Court documents said that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 computers worldwide were infected with the malicious software, which was derived from the original "Zeus" trojan for stealing financial passwords that emerged in 2006.
In one scheme, "Gameover Zeus", the criminals infected computers with malicious software that captured bank account numbers and passwords, then used that information to secretly divert millions of dollars from victims' bank accounts to themselves.
Pay or lose files
In another, "Cryptolocker", they locked hacking victims out of their own computers, secretly encrypted personal files on the machines and returned control to the users only when ransom payments of several hundred dollars were made.
Computer users who don't pay the fee generally lose their files for good.
The two schemes together brought the gang more than $100m, prosecutors said in court documents.
"These schemes were highly sophisticated and immensely lucrative, and the cyber criminals did not make them easy to reach or disrupt," Leslie Caldwell, who heads the Justice Department's criminal division, told a news conference.
Working with officials in more than 10 other countries, the FBI and other agencies recently seized computer servers that were central to the crimes.
The FBI called the alleged ringleader one of the most prolific cyber criminals in the world and issued a "Wanted" poster that lists his online monikers and describes him as a boating enthusiast.
Bogachev's operation, prosecutors say, consisted of criminals in Russia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom who were assigned different roles within the conspiracy. US officials said Bogachev was last known to be living in the Black Sea resort town of Anapa.