The Spanish high court has come to a conclusion to extradite Pyotr Levashov, a Russian hacker, to the United States.
He is purported to be the mastermind of the famous Kelihos botnet network, which took over countless computers by controlling them remotely.
Kelihos was first discovered in 2010 when it appeared into the rim light of the world of computing.
Back then, very little was known about the program and many confused it with other malware that behaved in a similar way.
For a long time, Levashov has been able to evade law enforcement, as little was known about him. This gave him time in the game to advance his attacks to a large count of devices in many countries.
But the 37-year-old hacker was finally arrested in April of this year while traveling to Spain with his family. He was later arraigned in court for a hearing.
To the understanding of many, Kelihos networks affected many computers and was used to spam other users from around the globe. This led to Levashov being classified as one of the world’s top worst spammers. Controlling computers from a remote location, he asked for a large sum of cash to thousands in the network.
Aside from spamming people’s computers, he used the Kelihos botnet malware to infect and obtain passwords from devices owned by banking professionals and owners in the U.S.
This scheme led to the loss of massive sums of money. Most of the victims were Microsoft users.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, he used his Kelihos botnet to send spam emails which distributed his attack to millions of Microsoft users.
Once Levashov was arraigned in court, his team of lawyers worked very hard to keep the extradition request at bay to the U.S. In their explanation, they argued that Levashov has worked for the Russian government and feared for his life once extradited.
This was simply out of the tense and controversial relationship between the U.S. and Russia in recent times, wherein the U.S. government accuses the Russian state of hacking its electoral system last year.
Both governments have been pushing hard for the purported hacker to be extradited to their respective countries for further trial. The decision was left in the hands of the Spain high court, which has finally come to a unanimous conclusion to extradite Levashov to the U.S.
The team of lawyers representing Levashov feared for his life once extradited, specifically to the U.S. as they saw it as an opportunity for them to get information from the suspect. This information could be vital to the Russian government, as he worked within their ranks for a long period of time.
The suspect was quoted as saying that he will die within a year, either by being tortured and finally killed or by killing himself.
His cry and request bore no fruits as the high court of Spain ultimately agreed to extradite him to the U.S. for further trial.
The FBI has been on Levashov’s case for a long period of time. This has not gone smoothly with Levashov, as he has also been accused of interfering with the U.S. election last year.
Though these allegations are not yet confirmed, the FBI has concrete reasons and confirmations that Levashov was responsible for the Kelihos botnet attack.
Levashov and his team have been given a three-day period to appeal for the extradition, which has already been decided awaiting confirmation on a travel date. This may not come to any different rule as the case is complicated in its own way—Levashov is likely to spend the rest of his life at the mercy of the U.S. justice system.
To counter the malware, which is already a massive network with millions of computers under its control, the FBI launching comprehensive efforts to combat the malicious Kelihos botnet from continuing spamming other computers.
This has not been an easy ride for the FBI to kill the ransomware from spreading over to other computers. To alleviate this problem, the bureau’s officials obtained a court order to redirect all the computers affected Kelihos to servers that are operated by the authorities.
This is a process known as a sinkhole attack, which is a counter effort used by federal officials to take over the systems of unwanted networks. It has been recently used to take down dark web markets such as AlphaBay and Hansa, just to mention a few.
The FBI has been working with security firms like the Shadowserver Foundation and CrowdStrike to bring sinkhole into action over the Kelihos botnet network. These firms are both volunteers of experts in the field of cyber security, where they deploy sinkhole attacks to gain control over servers running malware.
Though Levashov’s defence team has been advocating for his stay in Spain or Russia, it all seems to be falling on deaf ears of the Spanish high court. They claim his extradition is politically motivated. But at this moment, it is difficult to conclude the case.
The world will have to wait and see how the coming weeks and months unfold, as federal officials continue working to kill the Kelihos network’s spamming activities.
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