NEW YORK, July 25 (UPI) -- A Moscow-based "worldwide hacking conspiracy" broke into the networks of major companies to steal sensitive data, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
The victims included the NASDAQ, Dow Jones and major retailers like Carefour SA, Citibank, PNC Bank, Heartland Payment Systems, 7-Eleven, JCPenney, Hannaford Brothers and others, investigators said. The defendants include four Russians and a Ukrainian.
"This type of crime is the cutting edge," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. "Those who have the expertise and the inclination to break into our computer networks threaten our economic well-being, our privacy and our national security. And this case shows, there is a real practical cost because these types of frauds increase the costs of doing business for every American consumer, every day. We cannot be too vigilant and we cannot be too careful."
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Mythili Raman said the scheme cost their victims hundreds of millions of dollars.
"The defendants charged today were allegedly responsible for spearheading a worldwide hacking conspiracy that victimized a wide array of consumers and entities, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses," Raman said.
Those charged in a superseding indictment released Thursday were Vladimir Drinkman, 32, of Syktyykar and Moscow, Russia, and Alexandr Kalinin, 26, of St. Petersburg, Russia. Prosecutors said they specialized in bypassing security and gaining access to computer systems.
Roman Kotov, 32, of Moscow, allegedly specialized in stealing data once the networks were breached. Mikhail Rytikov, 26, of Odessa, Ukraine, is charged with providing an anonymous Web-hosting service while Dmitriy Smilianets, 29, of Moscow, allegedly sold the information.
The hackers allegedly stole information on 160 million credit cards, which were sold for $10 to $50 each, the lower price for U.S. credit card information and the top price for European credit card information.
The companies lost a combined $300 million, prosecutors said.