The mastermind behind one of the biggest hacking paydays in history has been sentenced to four years’ probation and an US$8.9 million fine, according to published reports.
Victor Pleshchuk, 28, was sentenced to four years’ probation on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg News. He is considered the leader of a group of criminals who organized a 2008 precision strike on RBS WorldPay, the payment processing division of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
In addition to the reduced sentence of probation, Pleshchuk must also pay back more than 275 million rubles ($8.9 million) to RBS WorldPay, Bloomberg reports.
Russia is trying to fight a reputation for being soft on cybercrime, but this light sentence won’t do much to change that perception. Security experts say that Pleshchuk falls into the same category of highly accomplished cybercriminals as Albert Gonzalez, best known for hacking into retailer TJX Companies and the Heartland Payment Systems payment processing network. In March, Gonzalez was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
In the RBS WorldPay hack, the criminals broke into the company’s back-end system and downloaded enough data to make duplicate corporate debit cards, which are typically used by employees to withdraw money on payday. Then, using an international network, they took money out of victims’ bank accounts using their phony cards.
Prosecutors say Pleshchuk and his gang took $9.4 million by hitting more than 2,100 ATMs in at least 280 cities around the world during the 12-hour window of their November 2008 attack. It remains one of the most successful computer crimes ever.
Last month, another alleged ringleader, Sergei Tsurikov, 26, of Tallinn, Estonia, was extradited from Estonia to face a federal judge in Atlanta.
Tsurikov, Pleshchuk and a third leader, Oleg Covelin, were arrested in Russia earlier this year. U.S. authorities have indicted eight people on charges relating to this fraud, though it’s not clear how many of them will ever face U.S. justice.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.
Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org