Ukrainian national faces up to 20 years in prison for his role in Zeus, IcedID malware schemes

Pierluigi Paganini February 17, 2024

A Ukrainian national pleaded guilty to his role in the Zeus and IcedID operations, which caused tens of millions of dollars in losses.

Ukrainian national Vyacheslav Igorevich Penchukov has pleaded guilty to his key roles in the Zeus and IcedID malware operations.

“Vyacheslav Igorevich Penchukov was a leader of two prolific malware groups that infected thousands of computers with malicious software. These criminal groups stole millions of dollars from their victims and even attacked a major hospital with ransomware, leaving it unable to provide critical care to patients for over two weeks,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Before his arrest and extradition to the United States, the defendant was a fugitive on the FBI’s most wanted list for nearly a decade. Today’s guilty pleas should serve as a clear warning: the Justice Department will never stop in its pursuit of cybercriminals.”

On October 2022, Swiss police arrested Penchukov in Geneva, also known as Tank, which is one of the leaders of the JabberZeus cybercrime group.

The man was extradited to the United States in 2023, he was included in the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list and has been sought for 10 years.

Zeus Penchukov FBI wanted

In 2012, the Ukrainian national Vyacheslav Igorevich Penchukov was accused of being a member of a cybercrime gang known as JabberZeus crew. JabberZeus was a small cybercriminal ring that was targeting SMBs with a custom-made version of the Zeus banking trojan. At the time, DoJ accused Penchukov of coordinating the exchange of stolen banking credentials and money mules and received alerts once a bank account had been compromised.

The popular investigator Brian Krebs reported that Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, noted in 2014 that Tank told co-conspirators in a JabberZeus chat on July 22, 2009 that his daughter, Miloslava, was and told him Miloslava birth weight.

Warner explained that Tank was identified by searching Ukrainian birth records for the only girl named Miloslava born on that day with a specific birth weight.

Krebs pointed out that Penchukov was able to evade prosecution by Ukrainian authorities for many years due to his political connections. The late son of former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych would serve as godfather to Tank’s daughter Miloslava.

Two other members of the gang, Yevhen Kulibaba and Yuriy Konovalenko, were arrested in 2014 and pleaded guilty. Both were sentenced to two years and ten months of incarceration in May 2015 followed by a supervised release of 1 year.

Since May 2019, Penchukov had a prominent role in the Zeus operation. From at least November 2018 through February 2021, Penchukov helped lead a conspiracy that infected victim computers with IcedID or Bokbot.

Penchukov faces up to 20 years in prison for each count, he is scheduled to be sentenced on May 9.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, IcedID Malware)

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