Kristina Svechinskaya: World’s Most Notorious Cyber Bank Robber
Arguably still one of the world’s most notorious cyber bank robbers, Kristina Svechinskaya was born in Russia on 16 February 1989. The co-ed quickly rose to infamy in 2010 after being charged, along with 36 other individuals, for hacking into various computers and using to siphon funds from the bank accounts. Personal photos of Svechinskaya flooded news outlets and the twenty-one-year-old was quickly dubbed the ‘world’s most interesting hacker’ by tech sites.
Road to Cyber Infamy
Svechinskaya attended University in Stavropol, Russia for three years before moving to the United States. The plot began after a group of other foreign nationals offered Svechinskaya an opportunity to become a money mule. The hackers used fake passports to open bank accounts at Bank of America and JP Morgan (among others), before deploying the Zeus Trojan horse to attack thousands of computers and extract personal banking information.
This allowed hackers to transfer money illegally into the fake accounts. Svechinskaya personally benefited by stealing $35,000 according to charges filed by Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time. Specifically, Svechinskaya faced two counts, one for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and another relating to the false use of passports.
Svechinskaya opened five accounts using two separate aliases and then proceeded to defraud three victims. According to the Department of Justice, the group succeeded in stealing approximately $3 million from US banks and $11 million from UK based banks. For these crimes, Svechinskaya pleaded guilty on 19 November 2010.
Using the Zeus Trojan, hackers gain access to personal banking information with a man-in-browser key-logger. Getting the malware onto the victim’s PC requires a phishing attack or the successful execution of a drive-by download. In the case of a drive-by download, it refers to not understanding what exactly you’re downloading or where you don’t receive a notification that a download is in progress from your browser.
Originally identified in July 2007 after hackers used it to steal information from the US Department of Transportation, the Zeus Trojan became widely available by 2009. Due to the stealth techniques the malware uses, detecting it even with today’s latest antivirus programs remains difficult. Once it infects your PC, the Trojan will modify other portions of the system software and replicate itself within the code of these applications.
After the hackers gain access to your banking information, money mules open fake accounts and receive a commission on all of the funds collected. For Svechinskaya, this amounted to between 8% and 10%. The FBI clamped down on the hackers in 2010, leading to the arrest and prosecution of more than 100 individuals around the world.
Kristina Svechinskaya Today
Since Svechinskaya’s release in 2013, not much new information about the notorious cyber bank robber is available. In 2016, Svechinskaya appeared in a Youtube promo for a company called Flashsafe. The company, founded by Alexander Krysin and Aleksei Churkin, builds memory-sticks with unlimited cloud storage and secure encryption to protect your personal information.
A recent Facebook post showed Svechinskaya living in Brooklyn, New York and promoting a party entertainment service called Universe11. The company specializes in arranging trips between the US and Russia for sporting and entertainment events such as the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
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