This real world hacker has all the elements of a James Bond villain

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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman with The World. The FBI has a most wanted list, but it also has sub lists, like the violent crimes list, the crimes against children list. The most wanted guy among cybercriminals is a Russian named Evgeniy Bogachev. The FBI is offering $3 million bucks as a bounty. Brian Bennett has been following the story for the Los Angeles Times. So, just who is this guy, Bogachev?

 

Brian Bennett: Bogachev is one of the most sophisticated cyber criminals in the world and the FBI has been chasing this guy for at least eight years, since 2007 when he launched a massive botnet where he created a malicious piece of software that was able to infect hundreds of thousands of computers and siphon off bank account passwords. The FBI says he was able to take at least $100 million out of US bank accounts using this software over the last eight years.

 

Werman: And that was the deed that made him a $3 million dollar fugitive?

 

Bennett: That and other things. He also created this really insidious virus called CryptoLocker, and what this thing does is when it gets into your computer, it locks up your hard drive and you have to pay a bounty to the hackers in order to get it unlocked.

 

Werman: We actually that kind of malware a couple of weeks ago on The World. Is his version still active and working?

 

Bennett: The FBI says the CryptoLocker is not as effective as it used to be, but that it still infects several thousand computers around the world.

 

Werman: The FBI’s been looking for Bogachev for seven years. Why can’t they find him? Do they have no idea where he lives or is hiding out?

 

Bennett: That’s the amazing thing about this story, is that Bogachev is apparently living in the open in Russia in a resort town on the Black Sea, and the FBI knows exactly where he is but the Russian authorities don’t appear to be going out of their way to arrest him.

 

Werman: So, he’s somewhere out on the Black Sea. Is he a yachtsman or something?

 

Bennett: Bogachev apparently likes boats and he lives in this beach town on the Black Sea near Crimea and likes to go out sailing on his yacht, and the FBI says that he can probably be seen at numerous Russian resort towns along the Black Sea, sailing his boat.

 

Werman: I know there’s not a lot of love between the US and Russia right now, but will Russia help the US eventually in capturing him?

 

Bennett: The FBI says they haven’t seen any signs that Russian authorities are willing to help them find this guy and bring him to justice. Russia doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, they have no obligation to bring wanted criminals into US hands. So, the FBI acknowledges that as long as he’s in Russia, he’s essentially out of reach. But they’re hoping that the reward money, that they’ve just issued a $3 million dollar reward, will incentivize some Russian citizens or hackers to maybe lure this guy out of Russia and into a place where he could be arrested by the FBI or some other international police force.

 

Werman: The FBI top ten, is there any evidence these bounties for cyber criminals actually work to nab these fugitives?

 

Bennett: The FBI said that there’s only been one other case where a reward for a cyber criminal has helped them arrest someone, and that was a case in the fall where they put out a $5,000 for a hacker living in Tijuana, Mexico. Within a month, the Tijuana police had arrested this guy, he’s an American citizen, and extradited him to the United States. Aside from that, the rewards only have a certain effect--they draw attention to the case. They haven’t so far yielded a lot of arrests. But the hope is that this reward is enough, $3 million, that some really industrious computer hackers or other people might go out of their way to try to help the authorities find Bogachev.

 

Werman: In the meantime, Bogachev is just going to be a Bond villain in the Black Sea?

 

Bennett: It’s kind of amazing to think about this guy, living out in the open in a beach town on the Black Sea and him being free to operate and sail his boat around. It seems like that’s what’s going to happen for the indefinite future.

 

Werman: Brian Bennett with the Los Angeles Times. Thank you.

 

Bennett: Happy to be on the show.