Russian hacker admits role in massive data breach scheme

A Russian man has pleaded guilty to his role in a worldwide cyber crime scheme to breach payment processors, retailers and financial institutions, resulting in over 160 million stolen credit card numbers.

Vladimir Drinkman admitted partaking in the global plot nearly six months after being extradited to the U.S., and over three years after he was initially arrested in the Netherlands.


According to the Justice Department, Drinkman’s hacking campaign is the largest such scheme ever prosecuted in the U.S., causing more than $300 million in losses to people and businesses.

“Our close cooperation with our international partners makes it more likely every day that we will find and bring to justice cyber criminals who attack America — wherever in the world they may be,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “I am confident that this type of international cooperation that led to this result will be the new normal.”

According to prosecutors, Drinkman was part of a small team that hacked one major company after another. Documents allege they breached data systems at NASDAQ, Dow Jones, JetBlue, 7-Eleven, JCPenney and 11 other firms.

Drinkman’s role was supposedly to mine these networks for valuable data. Other members of the team provided anonymous web-hosting services and sold the pilfered data on the black market.

His guilty plea is a big win for law enforcement officials, who have been struggling to punish overseas hackers.

Two of Drinkman’s alleged partners remain at large, officials said. Another, Dmitriy Smilianets, has been in federal custody since a 2012 extradition to the U.S.

With most cyber crime originating in Eastern Europe and Russia, the U.S. government been seeking to extradite more hackers and get them before American judges.

The FBI recently offered a record $3 million reward for an elusive Russian hacker.

Drinkman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit unauthorized access of protected computers and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is set for sentencing in January.