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Russian Hacker Who Hit Heartland, NASDAQ, Extradited To US

Vladimir Drinkman, cohort of Albert Gonzalez, appears before US federal court after arrest and extradition by Dutch authorities.

A man alleged to be the network penetration specialist for the "largest international hacking and data breach scheme ever prosecuted in the US" appeared in federal court in Newark, N.J. Tuesday.

Pursuing Russian nationals for cybercrime charges is often difficult, because Russia rarely extradites its citizens. However, Vladimir Drinkman, 34, of Syktyykar and Moscow, was extradited to the United States by Dutch authorities, who'd detained Drinkman since arresting him in June 2012 while he was traveling in the Netherlands.

Drinkman pleaded "not guilty" to all 11 charges. He will be held without bail until his trial, scheduled for April 27. 

In a federal indictment unsealed in July 2013, Drinkman and four others were charged with attacks on NASDAQ, 7-Eleven, Carrefour, JCP, Hannaford, Heartland, Wet Seal, Commidea, Dexia, JetBlue, Dow Jones, Euronet, Visa Jordan, Global Payment, Diners Singapore and Ingenicard. Court documents assert that the attackers stole identity information and more than 160 million credit card numbers, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Drinkman "specialized in penetrating network security and gaining access to the corporate victims’ systems," usually via SQL injection exploits, according to the Department of Justice.

Drinkman was also charged in 2009 for his role in five other breaches, including the one at Heartland Payment Systems. He was charged as "Hacker 1," alongside Alexandr Kalinin, 26, of St. Petersburg, Russia (charged as "Hacker 2") and Albert Gonzalez of Miami.

Kalinin is still at large. Gonzalez is in federal prison, serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted in 2010 for his role in the TJX breach.

“Hackers often take advantage of international borders and differences in legal systems, hoping to evade extradition to face justice," said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, in a statement. "This case and today's extradition demonstrates that through international cooperation, and through great teamwork between the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, we are able to bring cyber thieves to justice in the United States, wherever they may commit their crimes.”

“Drinkman’s extradition on the indictment this office brought more than a year and a half ago shows how relentlessly we will pursue those who are charged with these serious crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey.  “The incredibly sophisticated work with our partners at the U.S. Secret Service to uncover this enormous, far-reaching scheme demanded an equal effort by our colleagues at the Department of Justice Criminal Division in Washington and our law enforcement partners overseas to bring the defendant back to face these charges.”

The ongoing investigation is being led by the U.S. Secret Service. The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division is leading the prosecution. The Dutch Ministry of Security and the Dutch National Police's National High-Tech Crime unit assisted with the case.

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