Hacker behind $9 million RBS WorldPay ATM heist avoids Russian jail

Filed Under: Data loss, Law & order

ATM cash machine
Russian prosecutors have served a hacker with a six year suspended sentence after he admitted his involvement in a worldwide hack that withdrew $9 million from ATM cash machines.

29-year-old Viktor Pleshchuk, of St. Petersburg, Russia, received a reduced sentence, which includes four years' probation, after agreeing to assist authorities by providing information about other hackers who broke into computer systems at RBS WordPay.

The criminal gang is alleged to have created counterfeit cloned debit cards with the stolen information, but didn't stop there. They also are said to have cracked the encryption security used to protect RBS WorldPay PIN numbers, and raised the level of funds available on compromised accounts. Some accounts reportedly had their daily withdrawal limits boosted to up to $500,000.

This is said to have allowed low-level members of the gang to steal over $9 million from more than 2,100 ATMs in at least 280 cities worldwide.. in less than 12 hours.

The sheer audacity of this criminal scheme, which stole an extraordinary amount of money in such a short time, is mind-boggling.

Pleshchuk and seven other defendants face separate charges in the USA, where they were indicted last year. However, because the United States lacks an extradition treaty with Russia, it seems unlikely Pleshchuk will face charges in America unless he travels outside of his home country.

At the time, Acting United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case that it was "perhaps the most sophisticated and organized computer fraud attack ever conducted."

In addition to the Pleschuk's probationary sentence, he has also been ordered to pay back more than 275 million rubles (£5.8 million) to RBS WorldPay.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog at https://grahamcluley.com, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley