Feds unseal 2018 indictment charging Kazakh man in hacks

National

SEATTLE (AP) — Two weeks after a cyber-security firm released the identity of an alleged hacker from Kazakhstan, federal authorities in Seattle on Tuesday unsealed a 2018 indictment charging the man with an array of computer crimes.

Andrey Turchin, known in hacking circles as “fxmsp,” and his accomplices ran a prolific hacking ring that attacked hundreds of victims, including government agencies, schools, banks and luxury hotel chains on six continents, the indictment said.

Turchin, 37, is believed to be in Kazakhstan; prosecutors had kept the indictment sealed to avoid tipping him off that he was being sought. But in a motion to unseal the charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle wrote that they now believe Turchin knows about the criminal investigation and, given the security firm’s public identification of him, there was little reason to keep the indictment sealed.

The government still hopes to have him arrested and sent to the U.S. to face charges, the prosecutors said. It was unclear if Turchin had obtained an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

“By working closely with our international law enforcement partners at the UK’s National Crime Agency, along with victims, private sector security researchers and great cooperation from our international law enforcement partners in Kazakhstan, the FBI was able to disrupt Mr. Turchin and his alleged co-conspirator’s criminal intrusions,” Raymond Duda, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office, said in a news release.

The Singapore-based cyber-security firm Group-IB, which has previously cooperated with international law enforcement agencies, published a report last month on fxmsp’s activities, identifying the hacker as Turchin. The firm said Turchin and his associates would attack organizations and then sell access to their networks on underground forums or in private sales, promising buyers they would become the “invisible god of networks.”

The group brought in at least $1.5 million, Group-IB said.

According to the indictment, the hackers would sometimes modify antivirus software settings to remain undetected. They typically sold network access for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, but for some they sought more than $100,000.

Among the victims was a port authority in Cowlitz County, Washington — the Port of Longview announced that it had been the victim of a major hack in 2018 — as well as a petroleum products company in Alaska, an airline based in New York, a software developer in California, a Colorado law firm and an African bank, the indictment said. It did not name the alleged victims.

Turchin faces five criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit computer hacking, computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and access device fraud. The most serious charge, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, carries a sentence of up to 20 years.

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