Nikita Vladimirovich Kuzmin was arrested in 2010 and imprisoned in August 2011 for developing a sophisticated computer malware called Gozi and infecting more than 1 million computers worldwide, causing tens of millions of dollars in losses.
Kuzmin was sentenced Monday to the 37 months he has already served in custody, and ordered to pay $6,934,979 that authorities have identified as the damages experienced by two major Banks, one located in the U.S. and the other in Europe, Department of Justice says.
Kuzmin received a lighter sentence due to his "substantial assistance" in the investigation that resulted in the conviction of Latvian national Deniss Calovskis as well as the arrest of Romanian Mihai Ionut Paunescu, who is awaiting extradition to the United States.
However, prosecutors say the scale of Kuzmin crime is far bigger than the damages identified so far.
According to Prosecutor Nicole Friedlander, Kuzmin was motivated by greed and spent all the stolen money on luxury sports cars and "extravagant travel and entertainment in Europe and Russia."
Fight AI with AI — Battling Cyber Threats with Next-Gen AI Tools
Ready to tackle new AI-driven cybersecurity challenges? Join our insightful webinar with Zscaler to address the growing threat of generative AI in cybersecurity.Supercharge Your Skills
Kuzmin and two others created and rented the Gozi malware out for $500 a week to cyber criminals who used the malware to steal tens of millions of dollars from bank accounts.
"In renting the malware to others, Kuzmin made it widely accessible to criminals, in other words, to criminals who do not or need not have sophisticated computer science skills like Kuzmin and his Gozi co-creators," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "From this perspective, Kuzmin's crime is particularly significant."The malicious code allowed Kuzmin to control all the compromised computers remotely as a Botnet, enabling him to install additional code further on infected systems to steal data and access banks accounts.
The Gozi malware was first identified by security researchers in 2007. The virus infected a victim's computer through a document, like a PDF file, which looked normal but when opened installed Gozi on victim's computer to secretly collect user's bank accounts details.
Security experts later discovered that the virus infected at least 40,000 computers in the United States, including more than 160 computers belonging to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Gozi also infected computers in Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Turkey, Finland, and the United Kingdom.