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Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Russia arrests 'grandfather of cybercrime'
Internet cafe
The group operated from internet cafes
Russian police have dealt a severe blow to the image of computer hacking - by arresting a gang of computer hackers led by a 63-year-old pensioner.


This case dispels the myth that hackers are 14- and 15-year-old geniuses

Dmitri Chepchugov, Moscow police
His gang of five apparently worked from Moscow internet cafes to steal money from western credit cards.

Most Russian pensioners put up with their meagre $30 a month from the state, supplementing their income by growing vegetables or selling flowers by the roadside.

But for this pensioner, that wasn't enough.

Bitter

As a former computer programmer for a Moscow institute, he was apparently bitter at receiving no royalties from his work.

Russian pensioner selling bread
Russian pensioners often have to work to survive
So he teamed up with a former policeman and three others to steal the details of Western credit cards, which had been used to make purchases online.

The gang then channelled their income back to Moscow through a bogus internet site they had created, which sold useless information about timber in Russia.

Now, the man who has become known as the grandfather - rather than the godfather - of cybercrime could be facing up to 10 years in jail.

Costly fraud

"This case dispels the myth that hackers are 14- and 15-year-old geniuses," said the chief of the Moscow police department in charge of computer crime, Dmitri Chepchugov.

Mobile telephone fraud is a major problem
Hackers cost Moscow businesses more than $10m a month
"These were professionals without any romantic ideas who wanted to make money."

However, Mr Chepchugov said he could understand the pensioner's desire to supplement his pension "given the realities of life today".

Police said the group had stolen about $10,000, and was preparing to steal another $30,000.

Moscow police estimate that electronic fraud in Moscow - including schemes to cheat mobile telephone operators - costs businesses about $12m to $15m per month.

Russian hackers have been behind some of the most audacious cybercrimes.

Mathematician Vladimir Levin was sentenced to three years in prison in Florida in 1988 for hacking into Citibank's computers, and electronically transferring $12bn out of the bank's accounts.

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See also:

10 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Warning of more internet attacks
27 Jun 00 | Europe
Russians release 'CIA spy'
26 Jun 00 | Europe
Russians arrest 'CIA hacker'
09 May 00 | Americas
Defending cyberspace
11 Oct 99 | Americas
Russian hackers 'attacked Pentagon'
08 Mar 01 | Americas
Hackers steal 1m credit card numbers
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