Vladimir Drinkman, a 34-year-old Russian national, has pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to his role in the hacks that infiltrated Nasdaq, JCPenney, 7-Eleven, Dow Jones, Jet Blue and other major U.S. organizations. Drinkman admitted to being one member of a worldwide scheme that ultimately netted more than 160 million credit card numbers.
Federal attorneys who charged Drinkman with conspiracy charges unvolving wired fraud and unauthorized access to protected computers said the case was the largest to ever be prosecuted on U.S. soil. They claimed that U.S. companies and individuals lost more than $300 million because of the breaches. Drinkman was first arrested in the Netherlands and extradited to the U.S. earlier this year.
“Defendants like Vladimir Drinkman, who have the skills to break into our computer networks and the inclination to do so, pose a cutting edge threat to our economic well-being, our privacy and our national security,” U.S. attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement.
Drinkman and his cohorts, a number of whom remain at large, would monitor the target companies’ computer networks for months, scanning for vulnerabilities in their Structured Query Language, a specialized programming language. Upon finding a vulnerability, they would enter the system and install malicious software that vacuumed up corporate information as well as customer payment details. That information would then be sold on underground Internet forums.