Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Ukraine Crisis Could Dent Country's Booming Cyber-Crime

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Ukraine Crisis Could Dent Country's Booming Cyber-Crime

Article excerpt

Two US senators are hoping to use Ukraine's new vulnerability to compel the Eastern European nation to clean up the rampant cyber- crime within its borders.

The Ukranian city of Odessa is said to be home to the world's largest online stolen credit card data marketplace, and the country at large rivals Russia in the pantheon of cyber-crime. Indeed, Ukraine has become a magnet for Russian hackers gravitating to the digital crime syndicates there.

Now, a beleaguered and indebted Ukraine is asking for help from the International Monetary Fund, which gets 17 percent of its money from the US. For Sens. Mark Warner (D) of Virginia and Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois, this presents an opportunity.

"Ukraine is a known hub for cybercrime, and the United States should work with the Ukrainian government to create a framework of cooperation to deter, prevent and counter these cyber criminals and ensure the safety of the newly formed Ukrainian government and financial system," said Senator Kirk in a statement.

Ukraine-based cyber-criminals have become notorious internationally. One big seller of the credit- and debit-card information stolen in the hack on Target stores lives in Odessa, according to journalist Brian Krebs.

"A network of underground cybercrime shops ... all traced back to a miscreant who uses the nickname Rescator," said Mr. Krebs in a Jan. 14 blog post. "Clues about Rescator's real-life identity suggested he might be a particular young man in Odessa, Ukraine."

An even more intriguing Ukrainian cyber-crime operation involved IMU, which appeared to be a legitimate company incorporated in Belize but with main offices in Ukraine's capital, Kiev. IMU appeared to employ more than 600 employees in Kiev, with subsidiaries in India, Poland, Canada, and the US, according to McAfee, a cyber-security firm. It posted job offerings including receptionists, financial managers, webmasters, and R&D engineers.

But IMU's primary product was "scareware," which infects computers and makes a bogus message pop up on the screen, saying the machine is infected with a destructive virus. It tells the user to call IMU, which will fix the problem. Once IMU has its money, it turns off the bogus pop-up. …

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