The recent sentencing of 28-year old Nikita Kuzmin has given the law enforcement world a reason to beat its chest. Kuzmin, the creator of the infamous Gozi Trojan, cost the banking industry tens of millions of dollars before his arrest in 2010. While his jail sentence was reduced from 95 years, a figure that the FBI initially gave 2013, to the 37 months he has already served, he is still ordered to pay back approximately $7 million (USD) of what he stole.
But like the legendary hydra of Greek myths, when you cut off one head, two more take its place. Even though Kuzmin (a Russian national) and his two cohorts (Deniss Calovskis of Latvia and Mihai Ionut Paunescu of Romania) were caught and are being punished, attacks on the banking sector have not ceased. They haven’t even slowed down. The fact of the matter is that since the Gozi trio have been taken off the digital streets, more hackers, fraudsters and cybercriminals have taken their place.
Take the case of Dmitry Fedotov who was recently sentenced in Russia. Known by his nickname “Paunch”, Fedotov was the creator of the Blackhole exploit kit which ran amuck a couple of years ago. No less than a handful of agencies were involved in taking down Blackhole and Fedotov, but the number of exploit kits floating available in the Dark Web and other places where cyber criminals congregate have not decreased. Many current exploits are just as effective, if not more effective, as Blackhole.
Then there’s SpyEye Trojan creator Aleksander Andreevich Panin who was recently jailed for more than nine years by the U.S. Justice Department. But we all know that the next trojan attack is right around the corner. In fact, contact an IT security, anti-virus, bank or government agency and they will tell you that they have entire teams or floors dedicated to identifying the next generation of trojans and are developing a defense or a workaround for them. While Panin’s sentencing was a definite win for the prosecution, one must question if it made or will make a difference at all.
Finally, there’s Vladimir Tsastsin. The Estonian national was recently sentenced to 87 months in prison for participating in the DNSChanger malware fraud scheme. Everyone hates fraudsters and it is great to put another one behind bars. But then what about the other types of fraud? Ransomware, phishing, and the like. What steps are being taken to shut those down? The scarier question is; can it be shut down at all?
Law enforcement is facing an undeniable uphill battle. For every cybercriminal that they manage to track down, investigate, arrest and prosecute, dozens more slip through their fingers to do harm to the citizens and businesses worldwide. This is not to say that law enforcement agencies globally are doing a bad job. They are doing a fantastic job, but how can they slay a beast that never stops growing. More importantly, how long can they continue to swing that sword?
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