Russians Maksim Yakubets and Igor Turashev who the Justice Department allege operated an international cybercrime organization known as Evil Corp (which sounds like it should be the villain in an Austin Powers movie) were charged yesterday with stealing 100 million dollars from people and businesses throughout the United States. Both Yakubets, who drives a Lamborghini with a license plate that reads “Thief” in Russian, and Turashev are unlikely to be extradited to the United States from Russia.
The manner in which they operated their scheme was simple and effective. They sent malware infected spear phishing emails to their targeted victims which included a luggage business in New Mexico and a dairy in Ohio. When their victims clicked on links in the spear phishing emails, a malware known as Dridex would be unwittingly downloaded on to the computers of their victims where the malware would seek and harvest the banking credentials of their victims. Armed with this information Yakubets and Turashev would electronically access their victims’ bank accounts and transfer funds to another account from which the funds would then be transferred ultimately to Russian accounts controlled by Yakubets and Turashev.
Phishing and the more specifically targeted spear phishing are the primary way that victims of many scams are lured into unwittingly downloading harmful malware such as Dridex or ransomware, for example. While many of us have become skeptical of basic phishing emails that we receive that try to trick us into clicking on links, more advanced spear phishing which takes phishing to another level uses personal information about the targeted victims to tailor the phishing email to appear more legitimate and entice the victim into clicking on the link. Spear phishing has become an even larger problem with the great number of data breaches which have resulted in personal information being stolen that can be leveraged into spear phishing emails.
The lesson is to remember my motto, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.” Never click on any link in an email or text message unless you have absolutely confirmed that it is legitimate.
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