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Russian accused of hacking fraud extradited and charged in Atlanta

Federal authorities said a Russian hacker who allegedly hijacked victims’ computers to get banking and other financial information was brought to an Atlanta court this week to face charges.

Mark Vartanyan, also known as “Kolypto,” was extradited from Norway in December and charged with computer fraud, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta.

Between 2012 and 2014, while living in Norway, Vartanyan was involved in developing and upgrading computer malware called Citadel, said prosecutors. They said the software was used to take over computers as part of so-called “botnets” of infected computers.

Since 2011, prosecutors said, the Citadel software was offered for sale on invitation-only Russian-language online forums as a tool kit for invading victim’s computers and stealing financial account information, passwords and other personal information.

According to industry estimates, the authorities said, Citadel software has infected 11 million computers and resulted in $500 million in losses around the globe.

By allegedly helping develop Citadel software, Vartanyan “caused a vast amount of financial harm to individuals and institutions around the world,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn. Vartanyan’s arrest and extradition to the United States “shows that cybercriminals cannot hide in the shadows of the Internet.”

Vartanyan was arraigned Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Russell G. Vineyard.

Vartanyan is the second person to be charged in connection with the FBI’s ongoing investigation of the Citadel hackers.

In 2015, a 22-year old Russian from St. Petersburg, Dimitry Belorossov, was sentenced to four years, six months in prison. Also known as “Rainerfox,” Belorossov had pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit computer fraud for infecting victims’ computers with Citadel software.

Mostly working from Russia, investigators said, Belorossov infected more than 7,000 computers, including some in Georgia, and grabbed victims’ online banking credentials, credit card account information and personal IDs.

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