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SpyEye Developers Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison

Two individuals suspected of developing and distributing the notorious SpyEye Trojan have been sentenced to a combined 24 years and six months in prison, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Wednesday.

Russian national Aleksandr Andreevich Panin, aka Gribodemon, aged 27, was sentenced by a Georgia district court judge to nine years and six months in prison, and three years of supervised release.

Panin, the main developer and distributor of SpyEye, was arrested by U.S. authorities in July 2013 while passing through an international airport in Atlanta, Georgia. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud in January 2014.

Panin advertised and delivered SpyEye with help from 27-year-old Algerian national Hamza Bendelladj, aka Bx1, who was sentenced by the same Georgia court to 15 years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Bendelladj was arrested in January 2013 in Thailand while he was in transit from Malaysia to Algeria. A few months later, he was extradited to the United States where, in June 2015, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and 11 counts of computer fraud.

According to U.S. authorities, Panin and his co-conspirators developed, marketed and sold several versions of SpyEye between 2009 and 2011. In 2010, Panin started integrating components from the Zeus Trojan into SpyEye after receiving source code and rights to sell Zeus from its creator, Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev.

Bogachev, who is still at large, is on the FBI’s most wanted list with a $3 million reward on his head.

SpyEye, which reportedly infected over 50 million computers, is estimated to have caused losses for individuals and banks totaling $1 billion. The Justice Department said the apprehension of Bendelladj and Panin disrupted the operations of other top malware developers. The investigation conducted by the U.S. also led to the arrests of Panin’s clients and associates in the U.K. and Bulgaria.

“Through these arrests and sentencing, the risk the public unknowingly faced from the threat posed by the imminent release of a new highly sophisticated version of SpyEye was effectively reduced to zero,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge at the FBI Atlanta Field Office. “The FBI led investigation that brought one of the world’s most nefarious malware developers to justice and significantly disrupted the prolific SpyEye botnet demonstrates the power of focused investigations that combine the skills and talents of global law enforcement and private industry partners.”

Bendelladj and Panin are not the only prolific hackers sentenced to prison this month. Russian authorities announced that Dmitry Fedotov, aka Paunch, the man who created the now-defunct Blackhole exploit kit, has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.