FBI Busts 37 in $3 Million Zeus Trojan Bank Scam

Dennis Faas's picture

More than three dozen people allegedly linked to the Zeus Trojan virus have been charged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Attorney's office in southern New York. As we reported earlier this week, the Zeus Trojan has been promoted by scammers via fake LinkedIn email invitation requests. If you receive an email invitation from someone you don't know, delete it immediately.

$3 Million Stolen from Bank Accounts

The 37 said to have been involved in the cybercrime ring reportedly stole an estimated $3 million from bank accounts by using Zeus and other forms of malware.

There have been a flurry of arrests in connection with the Zeus crackdown, the most recent being a group of ten people on Thursday. Authorities aren't done yet, however; it's said at least seventeen people are still being sought in the United States and areas outside the country. Many are from Eastern Europe, a known haven for cyber criminals. (Source: cnet.com)

The crackdown has reached across the pond as well, with an additional ten Zeus-related arrests being made in England.

New Age of Crime Has Arrived

According to New York Attorney General Preet Bharara, the arrests are evidence of a rising new threat facing law enforcement.

"The digital age brings with it many benefits, but also many challenges for law enforcement and our financial institutions. As today's arrests show, the modern, high-tech bank heist does not require a gun, a mask, a note, or a getaway car. It requires only the Internet and ingenuity." (Source: pcmag.com)

Zeus Trojan Highly Customizable, Easy to Deploy

The Zeus Trojan made a splash in 2009. It's a highly customizable and thus a convenient tool for hackers who mostly use it to break into online bank accounts. Security experts estimate that it has been used to infiltrate tens of thousands of PCs around the world.

From the beginning, most of the activity associated with the Trojan was said to have originated in Russia. There, those behind Zeus used Russian language websites to recruit students holding J-1 visas, giving the latter power to open bank accounts in the United States. The students could then be used as mules for retrieving stolen funds.

Suspicious Withdrawal Alerts Authorities

The authorities first caught wind of the scheme after investigating a suspicious $44,000 withdrawal from a Bronx-based financial institution.

Most of those charged have been accused of bank fraud, false use of a passport, or money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The accused face jail terms ranging from ten to thirty years and fines as high as $1 million per count.

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