Accused SpyEye creator extradited to the United States

An Algerian man accused of helping to develop and distribute the SpyEye computer virus has been extradited from Thailand to the U.S. to face criminal charges, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Hamza Bendelladj, also known as Bx1, faces 23 charges in an indictment returned in December 2011 and unsealed Friday. The 24-year-old man is charged with one count of conspiring to commit wire and bank fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and 11 counts of computer fraud.

He faces arraignment Friday in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia. Information on Bendelladj’s attorney wasn’t immediately available.

How the crime was committed

Criminals used SpyEye, a powerful virus used for bank fraud, to steal online banking credentials, credit card information, usernames, passwords, PINs, and other personally identifying information.

The SpyEye virus secretly infects victims’ computers, enabling cybercriminals to remotely control the computers through command-and-control servers. SpyEye allowed cybercriminals to alter the display of Web pages in the victims’ browsers as a way to trick them into turning over personal financial information.

From 2009 to 2011, Bendelladj and others allegedly developed, marketed, and sold various versions of the SpyEye virus and component parts on the Internet, according to court documents. The group allowed cybercriminals to customize their purchases to include tailor-made methods of obtaining victims’ personal and financial information.

Bendelladj allegedly advertised the SpyEye virus on Internet forums devoted to cybercrime and other criminal activities, the DOJ said. Bendelladj allegedly operated command-and-control servers, including one located in Georgia, that controlled infected computers.

One of the files on Bendelladj’s server in Georgia allegedly contained information from approximately 253 financial institutions, the DOJ said.

“No violence or coercion was used to accomplish this scheme, just a computer and an Internet connection,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia, said in a statement. “Bendelladj’s alleged criminal reach extended across international borders, directly into victims’ homes. Cybercriminals take note; we will find you.”

The arrest

Bendelladj was apprehended at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on Jan. 5, while he was in transit from Malaysia to Egypt. He was extradited to the U.S. on Thursday.

If convicted, Bendelladj faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; up to 20 years for each wire fraud count; up to five years for conspiracy to commit computer fraud; up to 10 years for each count of computer fraud; and fines of up to $14 million dollars.

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