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CHASING DOWN INTERNATIONAL HACK ATTACKS:
The World of Computer Intrusion Cases

10/07/03

International hack attacks graphicHere's an alarming statistic for you: Information on over 15 million credit card accounts has been stolen or compromised by eastern European hackers.

How does it happen? It can happen as easily as a person sitting in a small room somewhere in the world...probing U.S. e-commerce computer systems...and detecting vulnerabilities in unpatched operating systems. That's precisely the back door they're looking for. Once they're "in," it's just a matter of downloading proprietary information, customer databases, and credit card information. Sometimes they sell the credit card information; sometimes, just to add insult to injury, these hackers contact the victim company to announce their intrusion and suggest a tidy payoff for them to patch the system against other hackers.

U.S. e-commerce companies are obviously working hard to slam shut all the back doors as they materialize, but in the meantime the FBI is working just as hard to identify the criminals -- no matter where they are in the world -- to stop their operations, and to bring them to justice.

Take the case of twentysomethings Alexey Ivanov and Vasily Gorshkov, both of Chelyabinsk, Russia. They were partners in crime, acting as "project managers" for a team of hackers in Russia who hacked across cyberspace into dozens of computers throughout the United States, stealing usernames, passwords, credit card information, and other financial data, then extorted their victims with the threat to pay up...or else they'd delete their data and destroy their computer systems.

FBI agents traced them back to Chelyabinsk, then extended invitations to them to travel to the U.S. for "job interviews" with Invita Security, Inc. -- a brand new "company" created especially by FBI undercover agents. Ivanov and Gorshkov bit -- arriving in Seattle, proud to boast of their illegal activities in an effort to impress the company recruiters. They impressed them, all right -- right into a couple sets of handcuffs. Gorshkov was convicted in a Washington state federal court and sentenced to prison last year. Ivanov was convicted in a Connecticut federal court and was sentenced to prison just this summer.

Bottom line: Crime doesn't pay.