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Russian National Who Operated Kelihos Botnet Pleads Guilty to Computer Crime and Identity Theft Offenses

Peter Yuryevich Levashov, 38, of St. Petersburg, Russia, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn., to offenses stemming from his operation of the Kelihos botnet, which he used to facilitate malicious activities including harvesting login credentials, distributing bulk spam e-mails, and installing ransomware and other malicious software.

“For over two decades, Peter Levashov operated botnets which enabled him to harvest personal information from infected computers, disseminate spam, and distribute malware used to facilitate multiple scams,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski. “We are grateful to Spanish authorities for his previous arrest and extradition.  Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that the Department will collaborate with our international law enforcement partners to bring cybercriminals to justice, wherever they may be.”

A botnet is a network of computers infected with malicious software that allows a third party to control the entire computer network without the knowledge or consent of the computer owners. According to court documents and statements made in court, since the late 1990s until his arrest in April 2017, Levashov controlled and operated multiple botnets, including the Storm, Waledac and Kelihos botnets, to harvest personal information and means of identification (including email addresses, usernames and logins, and passwords) from infected computers.

To further the scheme, Levashov disseminated spam and distributed other malware, such as banking Trojans and ransomware, and advertised the Kelihos botnet spam and malware services to others for purchase in order to enrich himself. Over the course of his criminal career, Levashov participated in and moderated various online criminal forums on which stolen identities and credit cards, malware and other criminal tools of cybercrime were traded and sold.

Spanish authorities arrested Levashov in Barcelona on April 7, 2017, based upon a criminal complaint and arrest warrant issued in the District of Connecticut. At the time of Levashov’s arrest, Kelihos infected at least 50,000 computers.

On April 10, 2017, the Justice Department announced that it had taken action to dismantle the Kelihos botnet.

On April 20, 2017, a grand jury in the District of Connecticut returned an indictment charging Levashov with multiple offenses related to this scheme. Levashov was extradited to the United States in February.

Levashov pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny to one count of causing intentional damage to a protected computer, one count of conspiracy, one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Judge Chatigny scheduled sentencing for Sept. 6, 2019.  Levashov is detained pending sentencing.

Read more at the Justice Department

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