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Online Toughies: The Cyber World’s Most Wanted Criminals

When a computer hacker decides to attack a system, the reasons for their actions might be anyone’s guess. Some do it to get revenge on a perceived enemy, some to steal money, some to injure a corporation or institution they disagree with ideologically, and some – perhaps most of them – do it just to show the world that they can.

There are some keyboard virtuosos out there whose activities have been so prolific and far-reaching in their effects that they’ve actually made it onto the FBI’s list of most wanted cyber miscreants. It’s the black-hat hacking world’s version of the hall of fame, and their stories make for interesting reading.

Here’s a look at some of the names on every law-enforcement agent’s hit-list of online baddies to look out for.

Behzad Mesri.

Iran isn’t well-known for its cyber skills, but this individual definitely placed them on the map. His target – the Home Box Office (HBO). It might seem like a rather low-hanging target, until you recollect that this is one of the USA’s (and therefore the world’s) biggest satellite and cable television networks. Netflix is a virtual baby in comparison to what it once was.

What Mesri did was to infiltrate the network’s corporate servers by compromising user accounts in order to gain access to valuable data stores. The former member of Iran’s military held valuable footage such as upcoming episodes of the massively popular ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and other shows for ransom. He claimed to have scripts and casting lists for ‘Game of Thrones’ as well. He wanted $5.5 million in Bitcoin. The network denied the ransom, and he went on to dump certain caches of his stolen data haul, perhaps becoming the forerunner of data leakers and whistle-blowers that would come later on, using Twitter to announce data dumps and alert media houses.

Nicolae Popescu.

Whether you have a vested interest in internet security matters, or are simply thinking of whether to renew your NordVPN subscription, you should know about this man right here. What brought Nicolae to the limelight was his role as the leader of a Romanian band of 70 hackers that ran a massive operation that specialized in using established online marketplaces such as eBay, Autotrader.com, Cars.com, and others to sell cars to unwitting clients in the USA.

The problem is, the cars didn’t exist. The group is known to have got away with over $3 million, but with such things, you can always bet on the real figures to be much higher. Despite being captured at a raid conducted on one of their premises, he managed to escape, and remains at large with a $1 million bounty on him. Nicolae and his collective really upped the bar for the gypsies with his high-flying escapades in the world of cyber notoriety.

Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev.

Nobody blames you for looking out for a Russian name on this list. Bogachev, who was, and probably still is, the leader of a cybercrime gang that is held responsible for the creation and propagation of the malware known as Gameover Zeus.

Bogachev apparently collects indictments like Pokemon, as he’s wanted to face charges in various courts all over the United States. These include a standing indictment filed in the state of Nebraska where he’s wanted to face charges of computer fraud, bank fraud, identity theft, among others.

Gameover Zeus was a particularly nasty bit of code. What it did was infiltrate unwitting people’s computers by tricking them into clicking links embedded in randomly sent e-mails that would download the malware onto their computers. While this alone might have been successfully dealt with by the authorities, he used the Gameover Zeus script to propagate another bit of rotten content known as Cryptolocker, which would essentially hold all your computer’s files up for ransom, with failure to pay up leaving you unable to access your files.

With these two tools, Bogachev and his crew cleaned up over $100 million, with a big chunk of this being in the form of transfers to overseas bank accounts through illegal wire transfers. That’s a payday to beat the band, no matter what your racket is.

Bogachev and his band of black hatters remains at large, although there’s a $3 million reward placed on his head – or keyboard, if that suits you better.

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