May 16 (UPI) -- Europol announced Thursday a multinational law enforcement operation that dismantled an effort by cybercriminals to steal roughly $100 million from more than 41,000 victims.
A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh charged 10 members of the GozNym criminal network with conspiracy to infect victims -- mostly businesses and financial institutions -- with malware, using captured login credentials to gain unauthorized access to online accounts, and laundering those funds.
The Europol statement said criminal prosecutions from the operations have also started in Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
"This operational success is a result of the international law enforcement cooperation between participating (European Union) member states," Europol said. "This operation showcases how an international effort to share evidence and initiate criminal prosecutions can lead to successful operations in multiple countries."
Europol said the suspects advertised their technical skills and services on underground, Russian-speaking online criminal forums. GozNymnetwork was formed with people recruited from the online forums that the network's leader controlled via computers infected with the malware.
The leader and his technical assistant are being prosecuted in Georgia, the former Soviet state that declared independence in 1991. Another gang member was arrested in Bulgaria and extradited to the United States. Another is being prosecuted in Moldova.
Five Russian nationals charged in the Pittsburgh indictment remain free and are believed to be on the run. The statement did not comment on the status of a Ukrainian suspect who was part of the network.
Alan Woodward, a University of Surrey computer scientist, said the case illustrates how comfortable cybercriminals have become in selling their skills on the Internet.
"The developers of this malware advertised their 'product' so that other criminals could use their service to conduct banking fraud," Woodward told BBC News. "What is known as 'crime as a service' has been a growing feature in recent years, allowing organized crime gangs to switch from their traditional haunts of drugs to much more lucrative cybercrime."