U.S. efforts to disrupt Russian hacking rings took another step as a 10-year pursuit of a Russian man whom U.S. prosecutors called one of the world’s most notorious email spammers ended with his arrest in Spain last week. Peter Levashov, of St. Petersburg, Russia, hacked into email and bank accounts of thousands of Americans, federal prosecutors said Monday in a statement. They said he also operated under the name Peter Severa, who is among the top 10 of the world’s worst spammers, according to a list maintained by the antispam organization Spamhaus. The arrest is part of a crackdown on Russian hackers accused of targeting everything from financial institutions to the U.S. presidential election. U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russia orchestrated computer attacks to meddle with the election last fall, including a break-in to systems operated by the Democratic National Committee. That investigation is underway, and no charges have been filed.
Beyond the election hacking, the U.S. government has accused Russia of directing some of the world’s most notorious cyber criminals to break into computer systems in a broad scheme that married illicit profits and intelligence gathering.
Last month, four Russians, including two Russian intelligence agents, were indicted in the U.S. over a computer breach affecting a half-billion Yahoo Inc. email accounts. One of them, prosecutors said, was “embedded” at a Russian financial firm identified as Renaissance Capital, controlled by the billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who also owns the Brooklyn Nets.