Spying activity was alleged to be going on since 2010.
Spying activity was alleged to be going on since 2010.

A brother-sister hacker team, well known in the world of high finance, have been arrested and charged with disseminating malware that resulted in the hacking of email accounts of two former prime ministers, Vatican cardinals and the president of the European Central Bank, according to a report in The Telegraph.

Giulio Occhionero, 45, and Francesca Maria Occhionero, 48, were apprehended and charged with obtaining of information concerning state security, illegal access to computer systems, and illegal interception of computer communications. The pair were said to have residency in the U.K. but were believed to be living in Rome.

Guilio, who has a degree in nuclear engineering, allegedly developed malware dubbed "Eye Pyramid" that infected around 18,000 email accounts. Bankers, executives and politicians were among those targeted, including the former prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister was also targeted.

The brother-sister hackers work together at investment firm Westlands Securities. It is reported that they assembled dossiers on their targets and made investments based on information stolen from the email accounts.

“We have evidence that the spying activity was going on since 2010 and possibly several years before that,”Roberto Di Legami, the director of the specialized cyber police unit that conducted the investigation, told The Telegraph. “They attempted to infiltrate tens of thousands of accounts. The investigation has just started and there are thousands of encrypted files which we need to try to open.”

Di Legami added that the hackers employed complex malware that opened access to their victims' networks for long stretches of time, siphoning out emails and documents.

Data stolen in the hacks was discovered by the FBI on servers based in the U.S., despite the team's use of the anonymity tool Tor.

The brother and sister were taken into custody by the FBI and will be extradited to Italy to face charges.