Although the name of Russian Vladimir Drinkman may not be familiar to you, you certainly are familiar with the crimes with which he and three other Russians and a Ukranian are charged. According to the federal indictment of Drinkman, he is a “sophisticated hacker, who specialized in penetrating and gaining access to the computer networks of multinational corporations, financial institutions and payment processors; harvesting data, including among other things, credit card, debit card, and other customer account information, from within the compromised networks; and exfiltrating that data out of the compromised networks.” Drinkman and his allege co-conspirators are accused of stealing more than 160 million credit and debit card numbers from various companies, including, most notably from Heartland Payment Systems, Inc. a credit and debit card processor that had more than 130 million card numbers stolen at a cost of 200 million dollars. Drinkman and his associates would then sell the numbers to other criminals who would put the stolen information on to credit and debit cards which they would then use by purchasing goods or withdrawing money from the accounts of their debit card identity theft victims. Drinkman was arrested in the Netherlands in 2012 and has been fighting extradition since that time. Now a Dutch judge has approved his extradition to New Jersey to face federal charges.
This is a noteworthy example of international cooperation in the apprehension and legal processing of international hackers and cybercriminals. Should Drinkman actually go on trial in the United States, much information about how cybercrime operates would be made public. As for what it means to all of us as individuals, it is just another reminder that we are only as safe as the places with which we do business and store our personal information with the weakest security. Therefore it is incumbent upon all of us to constantly monitor all of our financial accounts for early evidence of hacking or identity theft.