Russian hacker pleads guilty for role in Kelihos botnet

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A renowned Russian hacker on Wednesday pleaded guilty in a U.S. District Court for his involvement in the Kelihos botnet, a global network of hijacked computers that he used to obtain users’ private or financial information. 

The Kelihos botnet harvested thousands of login credentials, spewed out a bulk of spam e-mails and installed malicious software of these computer networks, according to a Justice Department press release.

“For over two decades, Peter Levashov operated botnets which enabled him to harvest personal information from infected computers, disseminate spam, and distribute malware used to facilitate multiple scams,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in a statement.

Spanish authorities apprehended Levashov on a U.S. warrant last year. {mosads}

“We are grateful to Spanish authorities for his previous arrest and extradition. Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that the Department will collaborate with our international law enforcement partners to bring cybercriminals to justice, wherever they may be,” Benczkowski continued.

Levashov has claimed he worked for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s party, doing work on its behalf.

“I collected different information about opposition parties and delivered it to the necessary people at the necessary time,” he said, according to the Reuters report last September.

Authorities described Levashov’s cyber activities as being extensive.

“Mr. Levashov used the Kelihos botnet to distribute thousands of spam e-mails, harvest login credentials, and install malicious software on computers around the world,” U.S. Attorney John Durham said in a statement.

“He also participated in online forums on which stolen identities, credit card information and cybercrime tools were traded and sold. For years, Mr. Levashov lived quite comfortably while his criminal behavior disrupted the lives of thousands of computer users.”

His plea follows a string of recent federal efforts to crackdown on foreign hackers who authorities say have targeted the U.S. in their cyber operations. 

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in July.

Last week, the DOJ announced that it was charging North Korean programmer Park Jin Hyok for his role in the 2014 Sony hack, last year’s “WannaCry” malware attack and a 2016 theft from the Bangladesh Bank. Authorities allege that he was working on behalf of the North Korean government in carrying out the attacks. 

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