2 Russians arrested in alleged hacker ring

FBI set up sting to lure suspects to America


SEATTLE - Federal agents here have cracked a Russian computer-hacking ring that prosecutors say victimized dozens of e-commerce businesses in 10 states through extortion and the theft of thousands of credit card numbers.

Two young hackers have been arrested and indicted after the FBI set up a bogus Internet-security company, called "Invita," and let the men hack into it, authorities said. Then, they lured the men to the United States to apply for jobs.

An amended 20-count indictment from a Seattle grand jury this month identifies the men as Alexey Ivanov, 20, and Vasiliy Gorshkov, 25.

Prosecutors say they might be linked to hundreds of crimes, including the highly publicized theft of 15,700 credit card numbers from Western Union in Denver in September.

A computer file discovered in an account registered to Ivanov is alleged to contain 38,000 credit card numbers gleaned from an unnamed business, according to court documents.

Agents suspect the men and associates still operating in Russia have been responsible for tens of thousands of suspicious probes and Internet intrusions into banks and other e-businesses, most often by hacking into a vulnerable version of Windows NT, the Microsoft business systems platform.

The problem escalated over the past year and became so serious that it prompted nationally circulated warnings from the Department of Justice's National Infrastructure Protection Center, in December and again last month.

"These guys aren't script-kiddies," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Schroeder, using a techie colloquialism for a novice hacker. "This is a pretty big deal."

According to recently unsealed court documents, Gorshkov and Ivanov used a pair of computers in Chelyabinsk, Russia, to scan the Internet for businesses using a vulnerable operating system. Microsoft, acknowledging that security holes exist in some versions of Windows NT, has offered "patches" for free for at least two years. Some Unix-based systems also were vulnerable.

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