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10 Dec, 2021 12:00

‘King of spam’ accomplice gets jail term

‘King of spam’ accomplice gets jail term

A Russian national has been sentenced to four years in prison in the US. He is accused of running a service that promised to render malicious software undetectable to anti-virus programs.

The US Department of Justice issued a press release on Thursday, stating that Oleg Koshkin, 41, “was convicted by a federal jury on June 15 of one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse and one count of computer fraud and abuse.” 

Koshkin is said to have cooperated with Peter Levashov – another Russian citizen arrested by Spanish authorities at the request of the US in 2017, and believed to be behind the Kelihos botnet, which used infected computers to send massive amounts of spam worldwide. Spamhaus, a group collecting information about big-time spammers, called Levashov the “king of spam.

The press release says that “Koshkin provided Levashov with a custom, high-volume crypting service” up until Levashov’s arrest.

According to the document, Koshkin ran a ‘crypting’ platform that helped malware slip under the radar of anti-virus software. His services are believed to have resulted in hackers successfully infecting “approximately hundreds of thousands of victim computers around the world with malicious software, including ransomware.” 

Another co-defendant, also a Russian national, “pleaded guilty on June 16 to one count of causing damage to a protected computer” and is awaiting sentencing.

David Sundberg, the special agent in charge of the FBI's New Haven field office, in Connecticut, which investigated the case, described Koshkin’s sentencing as “another example of the risk and consequences awaiting those who choose to commit cybercrimes against the American public.

According to court documents, the convicted Russian national ran the websites named ‘crypt4u.com,’ ‘fud.bz,’ and several other similar ones. Koshkin and his accomplices billed their ‘crypting’ service as the go-to tool for the likes of botnets, remote access trojans, keyloggers, credential stealers, and cryptocurrency miners.

This is just the latest in a series of arrests of Russian citizens by US authorities in recent years in connection with alleged cybercrimes. Back in 2017, the arrest of Alexander Vinnik, who was accused of running a massive bitcoin money-laundering scheme, raised some concerns that the case might be politically motivated. Some in Russia also objected to US law being applied extraterritorially to snatch a foreign national in Greece.

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