Federal jury convicts malware creators of hijacking 400,000 computers

A federal jury has convicted two Romanian men of 21 criminal charges related to a long-running scheme designed to infect computers with malware in an effort to steal credit card data, mine cryptocurrency, and commit online auction fraud, among other crimes.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced via a press release that Bogdan Nicolescu and Radu Miclaus of Bucharest, Romania, were convicted by a federal jury on Thursday, April 11.

Referred to as a “criminal conspiracy” in the press release, the scheme lasted a little over a decade and involved Nicolescu, Miclaus, and an unnamed third-party who plead guilty.

The scheme started in 2007 with the development and circulation of their malware. According to the DOJ, the malware was spread through emails “purporting to be legitimate from such entities as Western Union, Norton AntiVirus and the IRS.” As expected, the unsuspecting recipients of these emails opened files attached to these malicious emails and consequently and unknowingly downloaded the malware.

Once the computers of the initial recipients of these emails were infected, the malware continued to spread itself via the victim’s contact lists. This went on until the men from Bucharest had control of over 400,000 computers, most of which were located in the United States. Notably, the malware not only disabled the computers’ anti-malware software but it also prevented the victims from accessing law enforcement websites.

As a result of the widespread infection of this malware, the defendants were able to steal personal information such as credit card data and the usernames and passwords of their victims. In addition, the men also engaged in cryptomining, placed over 1,000 fraudulent listings for items on auction sites, and used the stolen credit card data to fund their own cybercrimes.

At the conclusion of their 12-day trial, Nicolescu and Miclaus were convicted of “conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit service marks, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts each of wire fraud.”

While an exact amount has not been specified, it has been estimated that the scheme has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars.

Nicolescu and Miclaus are scheduled to be sentenced on August 14, 2019.

Computing

Former student uses USB Killer device to fry $58,000 worth of college’s PCs

A former student used a USB Killer device to short circuit more than $58,000 of computers at a private New York college earlier this year. The student pled guilty to the charges and sentencing is scheduled to begin in August.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Computing

AMD Ryzen CPU prices get slashed ahead of Ryzen 3000 release

AMD's Ryzen CPUs have had their prices slashed as we edge towards the release of their third generation. Whether you're a gamer or someone who needs multi-threaded performance, there's a deal for everyone with some heavy discounts to take…
Computing

The number pad on HP’s Chromebook 15 makes spreadsheet work a breeze

HP's Chromebook 15 comes with a 15.6-inch display, a metal keyboard deck with full-size keys, and a dedicated number pad, making it the second Chromebook model, following Acer's Chromebook 715, to be suited for spreadsheet work.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Computing

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.
Computing

Here's how you can download the best free music players for your Mac

Tired of your Mac's default music player? Take a look at our picks for the best free music players available for your Apple rig. Whether you're a casual listener or an audiophile, you're sure to find something that fits your needs here.
Computing

Want to make calls across the internet for less? Try these great VOIP services

Voice over IP services are getting more and more popular, but there are still a few that stand above the pack. In this guide, we'll give you a few options for the best VOIP services for home and business users.
Gaming

Transform into the ultimate leader with our tips and tricks for Civilization 6

Civilization VI offers both series veterans and total newcomers a lot to chew on from the get-go. Here are some essential starting tips to help you master the game's many intricacies.
Computing

AMD’s 2020 Ryzen CPUs could have a big boost in power efficiency

The sequel to AMD's Zen 2-based Ryzen 3000 CPUs is slated for a 2020 release and when it arrives, could leverage the new Zen 3 architecture to deliver impressive gains to performance and power efficiency.
Computing

The iPhone’s Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts could land on Macs this year

For its desktop computers, it appears that Apple may continue to draw from the iPhone for inspiration. iOS 12 features, like Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts, are believed to be making their way to MacOS this year at WWDC in June.