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The US Department of Justice has charged three men with what is being described as “one of the largest reported data breaches in US history,” reports the BBC.
The defendants, one of whom has already pleaded guilty, stand accused of money laundering and computer fraud thought to be worth millions of dollars. The three men allegedly stole nearly a billion email addresses by hacking into eight email service providers, using the data to spam tens of millions of people and sell them fake products.
One of the men, 33-year-old David-Manuel Santos Da Silva of Canada, was indicted by a federal grand jury this week, while two Vietnamese men who resided in the Netherlands were charged in 2012, but their criminal indictments were unsealed for the first time last week, according to an FBI statement.
According to acting U.S. Attorney John Horn, the case reflects new problems at the heart of today’s cybercrime cases, where hackers target huge e-mail distribution firms instead of individual companies.
“The scope of the intrusion is unnerving,” Horn said, “in that the hackers didn’t stop after stealing the companies’ proprietary data — they then hijacked the companies’ own distribution platforms to send out bulk e-mails and reaped the profits from e-mail traffic directed to specific websites.”
Two of the defendants are currently in US custody, while the third man, 28-year old Viet Quoc Nguyen, remains a fugitive. Mashable notes that Nguyen’s attacks allegedly delivered malware onto victims’ computers, allowing the hackers to steal sensitive data by downloading information to a server controlled from the Netherlands.
The FBI has not yet disclosed when the defendants will face trial.
Author Kyle Ellison, ESET