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Russian behind elite cybercrime forum sentenced to 9 years in prison

Russian political drama played a role.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 26, 2020
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Westend61 via Getty Images

A particularly successful Russian hacker is about to serve time behind bars in the US. A federal judge has sentenced Aleksei Burkov, the operator of an elite cybercrime forum, to nine years in prison after pleading guilty in January to two device fraud charges. He’d faced up to 15 years in prison, but that plea apparently didn’t help him avoid most of the punishment.

The invitation-only forum, DirectConnection, let hackers and other online crooks sell their services and stolen goods so long as they had $5,000 and the backing of three current members. The charges also revolved around Burkov’s control of Cardplanet, a site that sold payment card numbers. Over $20 million in bogus purchases were made using stolen US credit cards.

The sentence is notable in part for the bitter fight to extradite Burkov to the US. He’d been arrested in Israel in 2015 and was supposed to have been extradited in 2017, but Russia fought that transfer for years. He was apparently one of the most connected hackers in the country, and the government may have been worried he knew too much about Russian hacking operations. Clearly, Russia didn’t have much success — it’s not certain if Burkov turned informant, but he won’t be leaving the US for a long while.

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