Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



Romanian Operator of Bulletproof Hosting Service Sentenced to Prison in US

A Romanian national who operated a bulletproof hosting service used by malware operators was sentenced to prison in the US.

A Romanian national who operated a bulletproof hosting service used by trojans such as Gozi, Zeus, and SpyEye was sentenced to three years in prison in the United States.

The man, Mihai Ionut Paunescu, 39, a dual Romanian and Latvian national, also known under the online moniker ‘Virus’, was arrested in Colombia in 2021 and was extradited to the US last year. He pleaded guilty in court in February 2023.

The bulletproof hosting service operated by Paunescu provided cybercriminals with the infrastructure needed to distribute malware and spam without fear of detection by law enforcement.

To facilitate the malicious activities, Paunescu rented servers and IP addresses from legitimate providers and then rented them to cybercriminals.

He also provided cybercriminals with servers they could use as command-and-control (C&C) infrastructure for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, monitored the IPs to determine if they were marked as suspicious or untrustworthy, and relocated customer data to new infrastructure when blocked.

Paunescu provided such services to the operators of Gozi Virus, which infected more than one million computers worldwide, stealing victims’ bank account information, including usernames and passwords, and causing tens of millions of dollars in losses.

Similarly, the Zeus and SpyEye trojans were used to steal confidential financial information from the infected machines.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The bulletproof hosting service was also used by BlackEnergy, a Russia-linked piece of malware used in numerous attacks against government organizations and power grids in Ukraine, and against critical infrastructure companies in the United States.

Upon delivering the sentence, the judge said that Paunescu “made considerable money” from facilitating the distribution of “some of the most serious malware circulating at the time”.

In addition to the prison sentence, Paunescu was ordered to forfeit $3.5 million and pay roughly $19,000 in restitution.

In 2016, Gozi creator Nikita Kuzmin was sentenced to time served after spending three years in custody and helping investigators, and SpyEye creator Aleksandr Panin was sentenced to nine years in prison. Hamza Bendelladj, an Algerian national who helped advertise and distribute SpyEye, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Related: Former Ubiquiti Employee Who Posed as Hacker Sentenced to Prison

Related: Nigerian BEC Scammer Sentenced to Prison in US

Related: SIM Swapper Who Stole $20 Million Sentenced to Prison

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

Click to comment

Daily Briefing Newsletter

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing to stay informed on the latest threats, trends, and technology, along with insightful columns from industry experts.

Join security experts as they discuss ZTNA’s untapped potential to both reduce cyber risk and empower the business.


Join Microsoft and Finite State for a webinar that will introduce a new strategy for securing the software supply chain.


Expert Insights

Related Content


The changing nature of what we still generally call ransomware will continue through 2023, driven by three primary conditions.


As it evolves, web3 will contain and increase all the security issues of web2 – and perhaps add a few more.


A recently disclosed vBulletin vulnerability, which had a zero-day status for roughly two days last week, was exploited in a hacker attack targeting the...


Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group informed some customers last week that their online accounts had been breached by hackers.


Zendesk is informing customers about a data breach that started with an SMS phishing campaign targeting the company’s employees.


Satellite TV giant Dish Network confirmed that a recent outage was the result of a cyberattack and admitted that data was stolen.

Artificial Intelligence

The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 has demonstrated the potential of AI for both good and bad.


A new study by McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) named a staggering figure as the true annual cost of...