Colombian authorities claim to have apprehended a Romanian hacker wanted in the United States for disseminating a malware that infected over a million computers between 2007 and 2012.
Mihai Ionut Paunescu is charged with computer intrusion and banking fraud in New York, where authorities claim he was part of a criminal ring that created and transmitted the “Gozi” virus and other forms Romanian malware used to steal money from bank accounts.
Gozi infected computers in at least eight countries, according to prosecutors, including the United States, Germany, Finland, and the United Kingdom.
Individuals, corporations, and NASA computers were among the victims.
According to an indictment issued in the Southern District Court of New York, the virus spread through PDF documents and once inside a computer, it was able to collect bank account credentials, allowing cyber thieves to steal “tens of millions of dollars” from victims.
Paunescu, according to prosecutors, created hosting infrastructure that enabled cyber thieves to transmit virus files without being discovered. For a weekly cost of $500, the virus was rented out to criminals.
Following a plea deal in 2016, the virus’s developer, Nikita Kuzmin, was sentenced to 37 months in prison and a $7 million fine. After being extradited to the United States, a Latvian programmer who assisted in the creation of the virus was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Paunescu was apprehended in Romania in 2012 but managed to avoid extradition. He was apprehended at Bogota’s international airport, with a thick beard and a red t-shirt, according to Colombia’s Attorney General’s office.