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Meet Russia’s evil billionaire hacker declared wanted by FBI

By Kalu Nwokoro Idika


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Many of the people on the FBI’s cyber most wanted list are Russians. While some allegedly work for the government earning a normal salary, others are being accused of making a fortune from ransomware attacks and online theft. If they leave Russia they would be apprehended- but at home they appear to be given free hand.

The U.S. Justice Department has offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a Russian man indicted for allegedly masterminding a vast, international cybercrime network that called itself “Evil Corp” and stole roughly $100 million from businesses and consumers.


Maksim V. Yakubets wanted by FBI


The $5 million reward is being offered for 32 year-old Maksim V. Yakubets, who the government says went by the nicknames “aqua,” and “aquamo,” among others. The feds allege Aqua led an elite cybercrime ring with at least 16 others who used advanced, custom-made strains of malware known as “JabberZeus” and “Bugat” (a.k.a. “Dridex“) to steal banking credentials from employees at hundreds of small- to mid-sized companies in the United States and Europe.

From 2009 to the present, Aqua’s primary role in the conspiracy was recruiting and managing a continuous supply of unwitting or complicit accomplices to help Evil Corp launder money stolen from their victims and transfer funds to members of the conspiracy based in Russia, Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe.

These accomplices, known as “money mules,” are typically recruited via work-at-home job solicitations sent out by email and to people who have submitted their resumes to job search Web sites.

Money mule recruiters tend to target people looking for part-time, remote employment, and the jobs usually involve little work other than receiving and forwarding bank transfers. People who jump on these offers sometimes receive small commissions for each successful transfer, but just as often end up getting stiffed out of a promised payday, and/or receiving a visit or threatening letter from law enforcement agencies that track such crime.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Yakubets/Aqua served as leader of Evil Corp. and was responsible for managing and supervising the group’s cybercrime activities in deploying and using the Jabberzeus and Dridex banking malware.

The DOJ notes that prior to serving in this leadership role for Evil Corp, Yakubets was also directly associated with Evgeniy “Slavik” Bogachev, a previously designated Russian cybercriminal responsible for the distribution of the Zeus, Jabber Zeus, and GameOver Zeus malware schemes who currently has a $3 million FBI bounty on his head.

Evil Corp’s leader Maksim V Yakubets, and administrator Igor Turashev, had been charged in a 10-count indictment, including bank fraud, conspiracy, computer hacking and wire fraud in 2019.

Separately, the US Treasury Department said that in collaboration with Britain’s National Crime Agency, it was freezing all assets of the two Russian men, along with 15 other associates.


Maksim V. Yakubets being questioned by a Russian police officer close to his Lamborghini


The British agency called Evil Corp “the world’s most harmful cyber crime group” and posted pictures on Twitter of Yakubets, his customised Lamborghini sports car and his 2017 wedding, on which it said he had spent more than $300,000.

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