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The World's Top Cybercriminals 175

bart_scriv writes "BusinessWeek profiles four individuals identified by law enforcement as the world's foremost online criminals. They're accused of crimes ranging from re-shipping rings to credit card theft and email fraud -- '...all are Russian. Strong technical universities, comparatively low incomes, and an unstable legal system make the former Soviet Union an ideal breeding ground for cyberscams. Also, tense political relations sometimes complicate efforts to obtain cooperation with local law enforcement.'"
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The World's Top Cybercriminals

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:29AM (#15365804) Journal
    Also, tense political relations sometimes complicate efforts to obtain cooperation with local law enforcement.
    I've heard that in many places of the former Soviet Union, the "local law enforcement" only enforces laws when it suits their financial needs. I've talked to people from places like Lithuania and Russia and one of the many reasons they left was because justice has a price on the streets.

    If you're caught doing something illegal, it's almost guaranteed there is some price you can pay the police to be let go.

    In my opinion, this hurts local small businesses immensely. I believe that it makes them more difficult to succeed and lays the groundwork for an instable/weak capitalistic system. There's even a problem with local law enforcement and bribes in many other countries. Honestly, if there was one thing I think that would help countries get back on track, it would be better law enforcement especially on the local level. How can people be expected to work and thrive in a system when the letter of the law is uncertain? How can you expect them to run a business and distribute goods/services if a thief can pay off police when he burglarizes the store?
    • "In my opinion, this hurts local small businesses immensely."

      More to the point, it hurts the CITIZENS immensely.
    • In some countries, the military and police are not fully funded by the government. The government requires them to develop a means to fund themselves. This results in the military and police running protection rackets. At least if both the police and military are doing this the provide competition to each other, but it is still pretty f*cked up.
      • In some countries, the military and police are not fully funded by the government. The government requires them to develop a means to fund themselves

        I believe you'll find this is still common in the U.S., where in some states people suspected (not convicted or in some cases even charged) of drug-related crimes can have their property seized and sold at auction, with most of the proceeds going to the law-enforcement organization responsbile for the seizure.

        Here's a somewhat dated story about this kind of thi []
    • I've heard that in many places of the former Soviet Union, the "local law enforcement" only enforces laws when it suits their financial needs. I've talked to people from places like Lithuania and Russia and one of the many reasons they left was because justice has a price on the streets.

      While I'm sure this was true of Lithuania, I can assure you that they would not have been accepted into the EU if it was still true. I'm not saying that there aren't crooked cops anywhere in Lithuania, but EU membership i
    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:22PM (#15366268) Journal
      You're absolutely right, and (not to toot the horn) this was directly recognized by the founders of the US. The term is 'the rule of law' and it is a predicate for a successful capitalist system.

      The problem, though, is not law enforcement -- the problem is cultural. Flaunting the law is ingrained into many cultures*, and this causes the US-style capitalist economy to break, since, as you point out, there is not a level playing field.

      *Very common in some of the poorer former Soviet states, where breaking the law was osmetimes necessary for survival. It just becomes habit to ignore the law, when the law makes no sense to the individual.

      To put it another way, it's hard for people to respect government and the rule of law when for most of their lives, both have not served them well.
    • You couldn't do even legitimate business in Russia without having an under$standing with the authorities. If you tried, masked men with machine guns would break in to your offices and set about negotiating a better under$standing. Illegal business got mob protection or ceased to exist.
    • I've heard that in many places of the former Soviet Union, the "local law enforcement" only enforces laws when it suits their financial needs.

      Yep. It's a terrible situation. But at least we can take heart, knowing that our countries all have something in common ;)
    • Ahhh yes.... The former communist countries now have a libertarian dream of a police force, pay-as-you-go! A dream for all tax hating americans!
    • Thank goodness things are better in the USA... where a corporate felon can be charged, brought to trial, found guilty, and then let off with no effective punishment at all. Between judgement and sentencing, there just happened to be a presidential election which was won by a candidate whom the corporate felon had supported with financial contributions. Surprisingly enough, the new prosecutors took a much more lenient view of the culprit's offences.

      In the USA, the rule of law always prevails. (Unless you're
    • Heh. Believe me - this is normal and happens everywhere. The only difference that may be introduced is the level on which the bribing happens and how it is called.

      Let's compare typical ex-ussr country and USA:
      Ex-USSR country:
      You rape an underage girl, you get caught, you are arrested. Your friends make a call to lead investigator in the case, offers a precise amount, you get released due to lack of crime in your case. The girl has to repeatedly repeat her statements until he gets so confused and nervous tha
  • If you needed a reason, there's a big one. Why deal with them if you don't have to?
    • great idea (Score:1, Insightful)

      would you like me to show you how incredibly easy it is to set up a webserver in pretty much any country on the planet?

      a webserver that could then be used for phishing scams and stuff. it could easily report all the data back to me in my home country.

      you're going to have to think a little harder about the problem.
      • Re:great idea (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Trigun ( 685027 )
        Not harder, bigger.

        How can you set up a webserver in Malaysia if Malaysia is blocking your IP. My router won't do much to stop them, but mine, and yours, and theirs will. Shitcan all of Russia. Everywhere. Think of it as Digital Sanctions. Until the government shapes up, no data in, no data out.
        • Re:great idea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:55AM (#15366014)
          Economic sanctions (and cutting off Internet traffic is definitely an economic sanction) tend to entrench bad governments, not overthrow them. In this way, they tend to have the opposite effect of that which is intended. Rather than inciting the populace to rise up against the government, both the populace and the government begin to blame the sanctions for everything wrong with the country. See: Cuba.

          Russia has a lot of big problems, a lot of which can be traced back to its being basically an impoverished totalitarian nation for virtually all of its history, followed by a sudden transition into a new form of government (and economy) that they were not prepared for and had no history with. As a result, they are having issues basically with capitalism run amok without the benefit of effective controls.

          The solution to this problem is more education among consumers here in the US (people who know how these scams work are less likely to fall for them) coupled with reforms in Russia that will make police less susceptible to bribery (higher wages and more training), and make criminals more likely to be caught and punished (technical training for police and harsh penalties for lawbreakers).
        • Re:great idea (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MarkByers ( 770551 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:56AM (#15366024) Homepage Journal
          Don't be ridiculous. You can't block an entire country just because of one individual. This could happen anywhere. Look at the amount of spam originating from America. The problem is more difficult to solve than just saying the government should fix it.
        • I Malaysia is blocking my IP, I use an open proxy in, say, Vietnam, and access the "page creation" site from my house. Simple as that.
        • You'd have to cut off international telephone lines too, of course, to stop them dialing out with modems.

          For that matter, stop postal deliveries, in case they mail CD-ROMS. Oh wait, people could swallow USB sticks... better close the border. And build a wall.

          Oh, but then... nevermind, let's just nuke em. I mean, we spent a lot of money on those ICBMs.
    • If you needed a reason, there's a big one. Why deal with them if you don't have to?

      The CIA and Special Forces need to sharpen their skills if they're going to find Osama Bin Laden; set them loose on these bastards. Black ops are the way to go. Even better, mercenaries. I'll start a collection. Let's see their hacking skills save them from a bullet between the eyes.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Nope, we also have NSA. Spying on _you_ today!
  • Everything there is connected to politics, look at Chodorkovskij for example...
  • by Douglas Simmons ( 628988 ) * on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:34AM (#15365842) Homepage
    With their notoriety, hackers like these have created an entire industry that races to make computers more secure. Given that you'll always have a constant number of script kiddies that don't make the news, the result is more secure computers and more people with jobs in this antivirus market.
    • by misleb ( 129952 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:50AM (#15365972)
      Yeah, that is just what the world needs, a digital version of the military-industrial complex. How depressing.

    • by nasor ( 690345 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @01:23PM (#15366872)
      This is an example of what economists refer to as the "broken window fallacy."

      The fallacy goes something like this: "On the whole, it's a good thing for people to go around randomly breaking windows. It creates jobs for the window installers and people who work in glass factories, and even helps to create new markets for shatter-proof windows!"

      Although at first glance this appears to help the economy, it's an illusion; all the money that goes toward replacing the broken window is wasted money that could have been spent on actually improving economic infrastructure, rather than simply maintaining it. Perhaps new and improved shatter-resistant windows will be developed, but if there was enough demand to justify their development then it would have happened anyway.

      Similarly, every dollar that people have to spend on things like antivirus software is a dollar that they weren't able to spend on improving their products, or hiring more employees of their own, or offering people cheaper prices. All this only benefits you if you are carefully placed within the market to take advantage of it. So yes, computer crime is good for you if you happen to work for a security company, but on the whole it's bad for society and the economy.
  • This issue is similar to the (existing) problem with Russian nuclear scientists taking their know-how with them to rogue states and terror groups. We need to get Russia to fix its economy, so that Russian programmers can get enough money legally. I think it's in everyone's interest to have them programing games, for example, than cracking systems and writing viruses.
  • by 0olong ( 876791 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:37AM (#15365866)
    By definition, the world's top cybercriminals will never be identified.
    • That doesn't make any sense. By what definition does the best criminal have to remain unidentified?

      It's also completely illogical. In that scenario, if all cybercriminals were identified, there would be no "best" of the group, which is clearly not correct. Even if you're not very good, you could still be the "best". Being identified, then, certainly isn't sufficient to preclude from the "honor".
      • I would say by the definition that the "best" are the ones that are able to commit their crimes, cover their tracks (either through not allowing anyone to track their activities back to them, or better, to not even allow those who have been attacked be aware of the crime at all). Those who have been identified, aren't that good. They got caught. Being able to commit a crime is easy. Being able to commit it, and get away with it isn't (I don't consider being hunted by the FBI "getting away with it").
      • By what definition does the best criminal have to remain unidentified?

        By the definition that claims the best criminal is the one who remains unsuspected of crime.

        Even if you're not very good, you could still be the "best".

        Ah, well, now we're getting into the realm of the Platonic Ideal vs. the Pragmatic Shadow. However, the existence of the Pragmatic Shadow does not necessarily invalidate the definition of the Platonic Ideal.

    • Not really. Cybercrime and high-profile crime in areas with bad law enforcement are rarely that hidden. In Chicago, for instance, the police department up until recently actually posted organizational charts of the outfit so everyone in the department knew who they were.

      The mafia and cybercriminals are very similar in that regard- you don't need to be hidden in a bunker somewhere, just be very good at separating yourself (be it through proxies, wardriven connections, a hired gang or expendable street thugs)
    • For example, even though the plot was foiled, I haven't seen any published identification of the crooks behind the nine figure bank heist []
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:38AM (#15365873) Journal
    For those who (like me) had no idea why "re-shipping" would break the law (except possibly as some cheesy customs violation), particularly to the extent that someone would count as a member of the top-four international cybercriminals...

    The actual crime lies somewhere between (inclusive) credit card fraud and identity theft. The "shipping" part of that just helps launder the profits.

    Just an FYI.
  • Putin and spam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joe 155 ( 937621 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:38AM (#15365874) Journal
    we're never going to convince Putin that what he really wants to do is crack down on people who are bringing a lot of money into the economy and who pose no threat at all to him. Trying to fight this through any kind of court just won't work for this reason. The only way we can really hope to stop this kind of thing is to do more lessons in schools about how pretty much every e-mail which isn't from someone you know is a scam. I don't really know what your education was like in IT in American schools but I know that for the first 3 years of secondary school (UK) I had a teacher who couldn't adequately use windows explorer to find files - we always got told to open the "package" (sic) and then go file -> open... not once did they even mention security. In my last 2 years it changed round a bit and there was some information (although a frighteningly inadequate amount) about security best practices and what have you.
    If we want to keep people from getting spam scammed then education is the best way
  • cat and mouse? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:40AM (#15365897)

    One thing I don't get about stories like this is why is it so difficult to go and pick up known "bad guys"?

    You can look an Wikipedia and get a list of the big drug lords, read articles like this, or go to SpamHaus and see the list of the big fraud/spammers, but they keep doing what they do for a long time.

    Is it because these people are so wealthy that its hard to get them? Is it because governments and law enforcement places are corrupt and get bought off or are part of the action as well?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    • It's because we keep calling Russia a backasswords communist shithole. Suprisingly enough, Putin and company aren't all that willing to help us out when it comes to criminal matters. It's the exact same reason we wouldn't be too likely to let the KGB come into the US to extradite someone they were seeking. Why would they waste their time or money to help us? And they definitely aren't letting US soldiers on their soil...
    • Re:cat and mouse? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dr2chase ( 653338 )
      What's a crime, depends on where you are. Alcohol was illegal once in this country, and tobacco's plenty addictive (and cold-turkey from caffeine is no fun either). Suppose that Spain passed a law against anti-personnel land mines; you got any problem with extraditing the CEOs of US companies that produce these abominations to Spain for trial?
    • Re:cat and mouse? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rydia ( 556444 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:03PM (#15366097)
      Evidence, evidence, evidence. Organized crime is brilliant at insulating those at the top from the orders they give those at the bottom. Even in countries where what they're doing is illegal (often not the case with spammers) you still need to tie that person to something through evidence.

      RICO is nice in that you can nab higher-ups if you can get two predicate acts on an underling, but a) they tend to shelve said underling after he's busted, because they have lawyers too, and b) most of these acts are against people they've intimidated, cowed, blackmailed, or are criminals themselves, which means we get a missing person and not a murder rap.

      You're vastly underestimating how difficult it is to get these guys, essentially you run detectives around looking into what they did, looking for the small screwup that lets them open an investigation and start searching places. It's long and it's tough. Like I said before, "everyone knows he's doing it" isn't evidence.
      • I think you're somewhat overestimating how "hard" it is to break organized crime groups. While RICO isn't always perfect, what it really seemed good at doing was making a big enough charge that when coupled with an offer of immunity and witness protection, got a lot of Cosa Nostra guys to turn informant.

        With informants and RICO together, they've done a really good job at breaking the back of the Italian mafia in the U.S. It's not gone completely, but it is a faint shadow of what it was even 30 years ago.

    • You can know that someone is up to something, and yet not be able to prove it, at least to the standard required in court. For example you've probably known about someone at school or the office who sleeps around. You are probalby quite sure it's true based on their actions and the gossip. However if I were to hold your feet to the fire and demand you prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, you couldn't do so.

      Same thing for crime syndicates. The police have divisions, often called OCCB, that do nothing but watc
  • All are Russian... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:43AM (#15365910)
    Except for the Ukrainian, Golubov. Ukraine is not Russia.
    It's Ukraine.
    Kuvayev, a 34-year-old native of Russia who uses the nickname BadCow, is one of the world's top three spammers, according to anti-spam group Spamhaus.
    Well, the second worst spammer (BadCow is third) is Michael Lindsay, of iMedia Networks, California.

    Its not surprising that they're Russian (and Ukrainian) if you choose to ignore the Americans.
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:47AM (#15365955) Homepage Journal
    From TFA: Postal Inspection Service officials are also investigating Smash's activity as a senior member of the International Association for the Advancement of Criminal Activity, which they describe as a loose-knit network of hackers, identity thieves, and financial fraudsters. Smash and another sought-after hacker named Zo0mer jointly operate IAACA's Web site, [], one of the most popular and virulent data trading sites, according to U.S. officials.

    I wonder what would happen if I posted a link to [] on Slashdot. I mean, what happens to links like [] when they get posted to Slashdot? What effect would it have on []?

  • I've seen in the report that many hackers are atacking big sized companies like Walmart, and I can see that this affects companies that haven't got the budget to obtain intrusion detection systems provided by companies involved in machine learning.

    Today the advances in neural networks, genetic algorithms, data mining and expert systems can be used in big companies to prevent credit card fraud and spam. Many of this systems use combined searching techniques with genetic programming to give outstanding res

  • We have gun. We have shovel. What problem?
  • "Law enforcement officials in Moscow who wished to remain anonymous admitted that a large purple gorilla was still at large."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Strong technical universities, comparatively low incomes, ...

    For a moment there I though you were talking about India.

  • "I am invincible!"
  • Conspericy theory:
    The hacker ringer leader had four computers. The goverment took three of them and gave the to his neighbors. In the traditional anarchist form black hat hackers posses, he teaches his three neighbors what he knows of duping fellow commrades out of there hard or not so hard earned money. Presto, you have the four top hackers of the world.
    • by biglig2 ( 89374 )
      It's "cracker", not hacker. Oh, and your entire post made no snese whatsoever. But of course we expect - perhaps even insist on - the latter on Slashdot.
  • I have plan (Score:3, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:09PM (#15366144)
    First we set up phony credit card site, then we get moose and squirrel...
  • WTF? Is BusinessWeek now somewhere in "the mysterious future" as well?
  • ...oh fuck, I can't think of anything.
  • Obviously they're not the top cybercriminals.
  • I would have thought that one of the top guys would either be Nigerian, or at least claim to be Nigerian.

    I'm disappointed. I was SO eager to help repatriate some money.
  • They meet in underground forums with names like and
    Imagine an open business of "godfather" being named like "olives of ", but "Cosa Nostra". This never happened, did it?

    Even the existence of darkmarket and theftservices is a joke and slap in the face of the common sense. Catch the person who registered those website and execute him publicly in front of Googleland.
  • I mean, he DDOs'ed Six Apart, threatened Blue Frog members, without mentioning all the spam he sent.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel