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Four Plead Guilty to RICO Conspiracy Involving Hosting Services for Cybercrime

The "bulletproof hosting" organization hosted malware including Zeus, SpyEye, Citadel, and the Blackhole Exploit Kit.

Four Eastern European nationals have pleaded guilty for their roles in conspiring to engage in a racketeer-influenced corrupt organization (RICO), which evolved from the group providing "bulletproof hosting" services used to distribute malware and target US-based organizations.

The four defendants were founders and/or members of a group that rented IP addresses, servers, and domains to their cybercriminal clients, the Department of Justice reported late last week. Criminals used the infrastructure to spread malware and gain access to victim machines, create botnets, and steal banking credentials that they could use to conduct more fraud.

Malware hosted by the group included Zeus, SpyEye, Citadel, and the Blackhole Exploit Kit, which targeted US companies and financial organizations between 2009 and 2015 and caused, or attempted to cause, millions of dollars in losses.

The group also helped their criminal clients evade law enforcement by monitoring websites used to blocklist technical infrastructure used for crime. They moved flagged content to new infrastructure and registered it under false or stolen identities, officials report.

This case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from law enforcement agencies in Germany, Estonia, and the United Kingdom. Two of the four defendants are from Russia, one is from Lithuania, and one from Estonia. All four have now pleaded guilty to one count of RICO conspiracy and each faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Read the full Justice Department release for more details.

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