'Unprecedented' sentencing for international GozNym cybercrime network

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Three cybercriminals that helped orchestrate a multi-million dollar theft against U.S. companies by using a banking trojan known as GozNym have been sentenced to prison, the Department of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia announced Friday.

The cybercriminals’ operation employed the GozNym malware to target 41,000 computers in all, targeting businesses and financial institutions between 2015 and 2016, including a Washington law firm and a Mississippi casino.

Krasimir Nikolov, a Bulgarian man who served as an account takeover specialist in the scheme, which targeted U.S. businesses and their financial institutions, has already served 39 months in prison. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer in federal court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Monday, and will now be transferred to Bulgaria where he will serve out his sentence.

Two Georgian men who also participated in the plot, Alexander Konovolov and Marat Kazandjian, have been sentenced to seven and five years of imprisonment, respectively, according to the Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia. Konovolov is understood to be the ringleader of the group, and recruited participants for the cybercrime network using underground criminal forums online. Kazandjian was his assistant, according to the DOJ.

The scheme shows the “unprecedented” the way law enforcement officers around the world can no longer operate in vacuums when it comes to prosecuting cybercrime, according to the DOJ.

“This new paradigm involves unprecedented levels of cooperation with willing and trusted law enforcement partners around the world who share our goals of searching, arresting and prosecuting cyber criminals no matter where they might be,” U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady said in a statement.

An FBI agent and an FBI computer scientist from Pittsburgh provided witness testimony for the Georgian trial, for instance. Georgian law enforcement officers sent multiple mutual legal assistance requests to the FBI and DOJ. The Hague helped coordinate and host several meetings to facilitate evidence-sharing between Georgia and the U.S.

“The case at hand was invaluable experience, as well as a significant challenge. It also proved that there is no alternative to international legal cooperation for fighting against transnational crime,” the Office of the Prosecutor General of Georgia said in a statement.

There are eight other members of the crime group that have been charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the DOJ.

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Bulgaria, cybercrime, Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Georgia, GozNym
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