Operation Zombie may sound like the doings of an apocalyptic terrorist group or the project of some Frankenstein-style mad scientist, but in actual fact it’s the work of police who have closed in on a 19-year-old Argentinian who saw a way to make a few easy bucks.
Superhacker Was Making – and Stealing – Bank
The young man, dubbed a “superhacker,” was said to be earning around $50,000 a month by hacking into international money transfer and gambling websites, all from the comfort of his own bedroom in Buenos Aires, say police. In a strange way, this lends more credibility to those ads you see on the Internet saying you can make thousands of dollars from home.
Allegedly, the hacker used malware attacks to construct a network which consisted of thousands of “zombie computers,” which then came together to divert money illegally, with virtually no trace of the activity left behind. This explains why it took police a year to close in on the hacker, who lived with his father, a fellow computer expert and IT engineer.
These “zombie computers” were then used to bombard the servers of their targets using a “denial of service” attack to make sure that the users were unable to access their accounts at the time of the raid, giving time for the teen to help himself to the funds.
“Internet users were victims of a ‘malware’ virus that the hacker hosted in a server for downloading online gaming applications,” explained an Argentinian Security Ministry statement.
Massive Computer Network Involved
According to experts, the teenage Argentinian may have set up a network of computers in his home that they have termed a “technological cave,” and police are reported to have seized a significant amount of sophisticated computing and IT equipment which he had used to divert around $600,000 a year from money transfer and gaming websites into his own bank account.
Operation Zombie, which grew into an extensive manhunt, began in 2012 when a website-hosting businessman told the police that he had discovered a hacker who was accessing his servers remotely and intercepting money transfers.
A federal investigation was then ordered by the chief prosecutor of Argentina, which revealed that the same hacker was intercepting funds from a number of other websites.
In order to prevent the hacker from deleting sensitive data which would be vital to the investigations, the arresting officers shut off the power to the entire neighborhood in which the man resided before raiding the premises.
After being arrested, the unnamed Argentinian now faces accusations of three crimes, and could face more than ten years behind bars should he be convicted of all of them.
But he wasn’t acting alone, as police suspect that he was part of a six-strong gang of hackers who planted the viruses on a gaming site, which then infected the computers belonging to visitors of the site.
In addition to the arrest of the young hacker, five police raids around the capital have already taken place, as well as an additional raid in Rosario where police have identified five others involved in the illegal operation.