Eastern Europeans charged in payment processor hack

Grand jury indicts defendants accused of hacking into RBS WorldPay network and running "one of the most sophisticated computer hacking rings in the world."

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

U.S. Department of Justice

A group of Eastern Europeans was charged with hacking into the network of payment processor RBS WorldPay and using counterfeit debit cards at ATMs around the world to steal more than $9 million, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

Four of the defendants allegedly collaborated to break into the RBS WorldPay network on November 4, 2008, where they got access to the account numbers for prepaid payroll cards used by employees to withdraw salaries from ATMs, according to the indictment from a federal grand jury in Atlanta. The defendants allegedly reverse-engineered the PINs associated with the accounts from the encrypted data on the network.

The defendants then allegedly raised the account limits on the compromised accounts and provided a network of "cashers" with 44 fake debit cards, according to the Justice Department. The cards allegedly were used November 8, 2008, to withdraw money from more than 2,100 ATMs in at least 280 cities, including in North America, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Italy, Hong Kong and Japan, in less than 12 hours.

"This investigation has broken the back of one of the most sophisticated computer hacking rings in the world."
--U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates

The cashers were allegedly allowed to keep 30 percent to 50 percent of the stolen money and sent the remainder back to the hackers, according to the 16-count indictment.

"Last November, in just one day, an American credit card processor was hacked in perhaps the most sophisticated and organized computer fraud attack ever conducted," acting U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia said in a statement. "Today, almost exactly one year later, the leaders of this attack have been charged. This investigation has broken the back of one of the most sophisticated computer hacking rings in the world."

Indicted on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, computer fraud, access device fraud, and identity theft charges were: Sergei Tsurikov, 25, of Tallinn, Estonia; Viktor Pleshchuk, 28, of St. Petersburg, Russia; Oleg Covelin, 28, of Chisinau, Moldova; and an unidentified defendant known only as "Hacker 3."

The alleged cashers, indicted for access device fraud, are all from Tallinn, Estonia. They are: Igor Grudijev, 31, Ronald Tsoi, 31, Evelin Tsoi, 20, and Mihhail Jevgenov, 33.

Tsurikov, the Tsois and Jevgenov were arrested earlier this year and Tsurikov faces extradition to the U.S., officials said. Two people in Hong Kong have been arrested for allegedly withdrawing funds from ATMs there.

RBS WorldPay, part of Royal Bank of Scotland, is based in Atlanta.