Bugat Botnet Administrator Arrested and Malware Disabled

A sophisticated malware package designed to steal banking and other credentials from infected computers has been disrupted, and charges have been filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania against a Moldovan administrator of the botnet known as “Bugat,”  “Cridex” or “Dridex.”  Actions taken by the U.K. and the U.S. substantially disrupted the botnet.

Andrey Ghinkul, aka Andrei Ghincul and Smilex, 30, of Moldova, was charged in a nine-count indictment unsealed  in the Western District of Pennsylvania with criminal conspiracy, unauthorized computer access with intent to defraud, damaging a computer, wire fraud and bank fraud.  Ghinkul was arrested on Aug. 28, 2015 in Cyprus.  The United States is seeking his extradition.

“The steps announced today are another example of our global and innovative approach to combatting cybercrime,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Our relationships with counterparts all around the world are helping us go after both malicious hackers and their malware.  The Bugat/Dridex botnet, run by criminals in Moldova and elsewhere, harmed American citizens and entities.  With our partners here and overseas, we will shut down these cross-border criminal schemes.”

“Through a technical disruption and criminal indictment we have struck a blow to one of the most pernicious malware threats in the world,” said U.S. Attorney Hickton.

“Cyber criminals often reach across international borders, but this operation demonstrates our determination to shut them down no matter where they are,” said Executive Assistant Director Robert Anderson Jr. of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.  “The criminal charges announced today would not have been possible without the cooperation of our partners in international law enforcement and private sector.  We continue to strengthen those relationships and find innovative ways to counter cyber criminals.”

According to the indictment, Ghinkul was part of a criminal conspiracy that disseminated Bugat, which is a multifunction malware package that automates the theft of confidential personal and financial information, such as online banking credentials, from infected computers through the use of keystroke logging and web injects.  It is generally distributed through “phishing,” an email fraud method where legitimate-looking emails are distributed to victims in an attempt to obtain personal or financial information.  Bugat is specifically designed to defeat antivirus and other protective measures employed by victims.  The FBI estimates at least $10 million in direct loss domestically can be attributed to Bugat.

The indictment alleges that Ghinkul and his co-conspirators used the malware to steal banking credentials and then, using the stolen credentials, to initiate fraudulent electronic funds transfers of millions of dollars from the victims’ bank accounts into the accounts of money mules, who further transferred the stolen funds to other members of the conspiracy.  Specifically, according to the indictment, on Dec. 16, 2011, Ghinkul and others allegedly attempted to cause the electronic transfer of $999,000 from the Sharon, Pennsylvania, City School District’s account at First National Bank to an account in Kiev, Ukraine, using account information obtained through a phishing email.  In addition, Ghinkul and others allegedly caused the international transfer on Aug. 31, 2012, of $2,158,600 from a Penneco Oil account at First Commonwealth Bank to an account in Krasnodar, Russia, and the international transfer on Sept. 4, 2012, of $1,350,000 from a Penneco Oil account at First Commonwealth Bank to an account in Minsk, Belarus.  Finally, the indictment alleges that on Sept. 4, 2012, Ghinkul attempted to cause the electronic transfer of $76,520 from a Penneco Oil account at First Commonwealth Bank to an account in Philadelphia.  In all three instances, the company’s account information was allegedly obtained through a phishing email sent to a Penneco Oil employee.

In addition to the criminal charges announced today, the United States obtained a civil injunction in the Western District of Pennsylvania authorizing the FBI to take measures to redirect automated requests by victim computers for additional instructions to substitute servers.

The charges and allegations contained in an indictment are merely accusations.  The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The investigation is being conducted by the FBI.  Other agencies and organizations partnering in this effort include: the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S.-Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, Europol’s EC3, German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Dell SecureWorks, Fox-IT, S21sec, Abuse.ch, the Shadowserver Foundation, Spamhaus and the Moldovan General Inspectorate of Police Centre for Combating Cyber Crime, the Prosecutor General’s Office Cyber Crimes Unit and the Ministry of Interior Forensics Unit.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary McKeen Houghton and Margaret E. Picking of the Western District of Pennsylvania.  The civil action to disrupt the Bugat malware is led by Senior Trial Attorney Richard D. Green of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Comber of the Western District of Pennsylvania.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance throughout the criminal and civil investigations.

Victims of Bugat/Dridex may use the following webpage created by US-CERT for assistance in removing the malware: https://www.us-cert.gov/dridex.

Related: Ghinkul Indictment

SOURCE: Department of Justice

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