Threat Management

Russian man arrested for POS hacks draws Russia’s ire

Authorities have arrested a 30-year-old Russian man for a bevy of point-of-sale (POS) hacking crimes at Washington, D.C., restaurants, including an attack on Broadway Grill in 2010.

According to court documents, Roman Seleznev, who goes by many handles, including “Track2,” “nCuX,” and “bulba” was taken into custody on July 5 in Guam, three years after he was indicted for the crimes, which ultimately led to the closure of the popular Capitol Hill eatery.

The indictment in U.S. District Court in Seattle, unsealed this week, showed that Seleznev is charged with hacking into retail POS systems between October 2009 and February 2011 and installing malware to steal credit card numbers.

The Justice Department fingered Seleznev as the mastermind behind the creating and operation of the tech infrastructure that supported the scheme. He is charged with five counts of bank fraud, eight counts each of intentionally causing damage and obtaining information from a protected computer and a single count of possessing 15 or more unauthorized devices, in this case stolen credit card numbers.

He was also hit with two counts of trafficking in unauthorized access devices and five counts of aggravated identity theft.

Durkan said that Seleznev's arrest sends a message to “cyber crooks” that they “cannot hide behind distant keyboards. We will bring you to justice.”

Just how Seleznev, who the son of a Russian lawmaker Valery Seleznyov, was brought to justice is being hotly debated and protested.

His arrest has sparked allegations from the Russian Foreign Ministry that he was kidnapped by the U.S. and spirited to Guam, according to an account posted on the ministry's website and detailed by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS.

The ministry says Seleznev was picked up in a Maldives airport in a move it considers “unfriendly” on the part of the U.S. government. “It is not the first time that the U.S. kidnaps a Russian citizen ignoring the 1999 mutual legal assistance agreement,” the ministry's statement said.

Although the Justice Department demurred as to how Seleznev was taken into custody, in a statement, U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, head of the department's Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement Subcommittee, thanked the U.S. Secret Service, the Electronic Crimes Task Force, and the Seattle Police Department as well as partners in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Guam and the department's own office of International Affairs Office and the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property section of its Criminal Division for their help in his apprehension.

Russia continues to turn out some of the world's most prolific and persistent hackers — the same Russian hackers who responsible for the Heartland breach were believed to be behind data breaches at Neiman Marcus and other retailers.

But the country's unwillingness, or at least hesitance, to extradite has raised eyebrows.

After Russian hacker Aleksander Panin was arrested last year in the Dominican Republic and sent on to the U.S. where he was wanted in a $5 million online banking scheme, Russia issued a travel alert noting, according to a report in Wired, that “Practice shows that the trials of those who were actually kidnapped and taken to the United States are biased, based on shaky evidence.”

And the country has given refuge to the U.S.'s most notorious whistleblower, Edward Snowden.

In the wake of Seleznev's arrest, the ministry renewed the warning issued in last year's travel alert.

“In view of the aforementioned situation, we once more strongly recommend our compatriots to give serious consideration to Russian Foreign Ministry's warning published on the ministry's website regarding the risks linked with trips abroad when there are concerns that American law enforcement agencies might lodge any claims against them,” it said.

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