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Russian hacker pleads guilty to running Kelihos botnet to harvest credentials, distribute spam and more

Russian hacker pleads guilty to running Kelihos botnet to harvest credentials, distribute spam and more
  • Peter Yuryevich Levashov - dubbed one of the most notorious criminal spammers in the world - was arrested in Spain in April 2017.
  • Since the late 1990s, Levashov controlled and operated multiple botnets including Kelihos, Storm and Waledac.

A Russian man has pleaded guilty in a US District Court over his involvement in the notorious Kelihos botnet, a global network of tens of thousands of hijacked computers used to harvest login credentials, spew spam emails, spread Trojans, ransomware and more. Peter Yuryevich Levashov - dubbed one of the most notorious criminal spammers in the world - was arrested in Spain in April 2017 and was extradited to the US in February this year.

At the time of his arrest, Kelihos had infected at least 50,000 computers worldwide.

In April 2017, the US Justice Department announced that it had proceeded to dismantle the massive botnet. The botnet was sinkholed by diverting traffic from malicious domains to servers controlled by authorities.

Since the late 1990s, Levashov controlled and operated multiple botnets including Kelihos, Storm and Waledac to steal personal information, login credentials and more from infected computers, authorities said. He also participated in and moderated various online criminal forums where stolen data, malware and other cybercriminal tools were being peddled.

To further his scheme, he also disseminated spam and distributed malware including banking Trojans and ransomware.The Kelihos botnet was also advertised to other cybercriminals on dark web forums for purchase as well.

“For over two decades, Peter Levashov operated botnets which enabled him to harvest personal information from infected computers, disseminate spam, and distribute malware used to facilitate multiple scams,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a statement. “We are grateful to Spanish authorities for his previous arrest and extradition. Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that the Department will collaborate with our international law enforcement partners to bring cybercriminals to justice, wherever they may be.”

Levashov's sentencing has been scheduled for September 6, 2019.

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