A Russian man has received a sentence of 27 years in prison for hacking into American businesses and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
On 21 April, the Federal District Court of Seattle sentenced Roman Valerevich Seleznev, 32, to 27 years in prison – the longest sentence imposed for hacking-related charges in the United States. Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department hopes this outcome sends a message to Russian computer criminals everywhere that they are not safe. As he told The New York Times:
“This investigation, conviction and sentence demonstrates that the United States will bring the full force of the American justice system upon cybercriminals like Seleznev who victimize U.S. citizens and companies from afar. And we will not tolerate the existence of safe havens for these crimes; we will identify cybercriminals from the dark corners of the internet and bring them to justice.”
Between 2 October 2009 and 22 February 2011, Seleznev aka “Track2” hacked into the computer networks of American businesses including several restaurants based in the Seattle area. He then planted malware on his targets’ point-of-sale (PoS) terminals to steal customers’ payment card details. His ultimate goal was to monetize these bits of data on the dark web.
In total, Seleznev’s scheme affected 3,700 financial institutions and 500 businesses. He stole and sold more than two million credit card numbers, causing approximately $170 million in damages. Evidence seized by law enforcement suggests the hacker spent his profits on sports cars and vacations in tropical locations. One picture even shows him with stacks of what appear to be 5,000-ruble bills.
Local police arrested Seleznev at the urging of U.S. law enforcement in 2014 while the hacker was vacationing with his girlfriend in Maldives. Authorities eventually extradited Seleznev to a federal prison in Washington. There, he wrote an 11-page handwritten note (PDF) in which he seems to accept responsibility for his crimes:
“I do accept full responsibility for everything. I am afraid of my punishment, but I am believed to have finally got caught as the life of a criminal is no good at all. My mom tried to teach this to me but I fail and I deeply sorry to all. [sic]”
Seleznev also faces criminal charges in Nevada and Georgia. As of this writing, those cases are still pending.