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Russia arrests three over $9m RBS WorldPay scam

Alleged looters face lots of questions

Three men suspected of orchestrating a massive $9m cyber-raid on RBS WorldPay involving cloned payroll cards and hacking have been arrested by Russian's FSB internal security service.

Viktor Pleshchuk, the alleged ringleader, and two accomplices, Sergei Tsurikov and Oleg Covelin, were arrested on suspicion of masterminding the $9m hacking and subsequent looting of payment systems run by RBS WorldPay in November 2008, the Financial Times reports.

The high profile cyberblag involved the use of cloned payroll cards to take out money from an estimated 2,100 cash machines in 280 cities worldwide during an audacious 12 hour overnight cash-out operation. It involved breaking into RBS WorldPay systems and extracting data needed to create forged cards after ""reverse engineered personal identification numbers (PINs) from the encrypted data", according to a November 2009 indictment on the case, as previously reported in more detail here.

A payroll card is a pre-paid card that's topped up by an employer and given to workers. They can then use it at shops or to withdraw cash at ATMs.

Sergei Tsurikov, then 25, of Tallinn, Estonia; Viktor Pleshchuk, 25, of St Petersburg, Russia; Oleg Covelin, 28, of Chisinau, Moldova were each named in this indictment. Authorities allege Covelin identified a flaw in RBS WorldPay systems that allowed him to carry out the hack in conjunction with Tsurikov, Pleshchuk and another as-yet-unidentified hacker.

The RBS WorldPay arrests are being welcomed in the West as signs of increased Russian involvement in the fight against cybercrime. The only previous case on record that led to the arrest of Russian hackers involved DDoS attacks on online gambling firms and banks that eventually led to the conviction and imprisonment of three hackers - Ivan Maksakov, Alexander Petrov and Denis Stepanov - for eight years in 2007.

The Russian Constitution prohibits the extradition of its nationals, so any prosecution of Pleshchuk in the RBS WorldPay hack will have to take place in Russia. US authorities requested the extradition of Tsurikov, who was arrested by Estonian authorities last year before been turned over to the FSB for further questioning earlier this week. ®

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