Hacker Hamza Bendelladj sentenced to 15 years

Hamza Bendelladj and Russian codefendant sentenced for using computer virus to steal millions of dollars.

Hamza Bendelladj was arrested in Thailand in 2013 and extradited to the US [Getty Images]

Algerian hacker and developer of malicious SpyEye malware Hamza Bendelladj has been sentenced by a US court to 15 years in prison and three years of supervised release on charges related to his role in developing and distributing the virus.

Bendelladj, 27, had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit wire and bank fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse, and 11 counts of computer fraud and abuse. He had faced 60 years prison and a $24m fine.

Bendelladj’s court-appointed attorney, Jay L. Strongwater of Atlanta, told Al Jazeera that his client pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility for his actions. 

His crimes are estimated to have cost at least $100m.

Bendelladj and codefendant Russian Aleksandr Andreevich Panin formed a computer-hacking crime ring that set out to steal money from bank accounts of individuals and institutions by infecting millions of computers in the US.

READ MORE: Is the Algerian hacker a hero?

Panin had also pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced on Wednesday to nine years and six months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.

John Horn, US attorney for the northern district of Georgia, said in a press statement that “it is difficult to overstate the significance of this case, not only in terms of bringing two prolific computer hackers to justice, but also in disrupting and preventing immeasurable financial losses to individuals and the financial industry around the world”. 

Bendelladj was travelling from Malaysia to Algeria when he arrested in transit in Thailand in 2013 and later extradited to the US.

The Justice Department statement quoted Horn as saying: “Until dismantled by the FBI, SpyEye was the pre-eminent malware banking Trojan from 2010-2012, used by a global syndicate of cybercriminals to infect more than 50 million computers, causing close to $1bn in financial harm to individuals and financial institutions around the globe”.

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Source: Al Jazeera