September 16, 2011, 9:45 AM — A Russian cybergang headed by a mysterious ringleader called 'Soldier' were able to steal $3.2 million (£2 million) from US citizens earlier this year using the SpyEye-Zeus data-stealing Trojan, security company Trend Micro has reported.
Over a six month period from January 2011, Trend found that the Soldier gang had been able to compromise a cross-section of US business, including banks, airports, research institutions and even the US military and Government, as well as ordinary citizens.
A total of 25,394 systems were infected between 19 April and 29 June alone, 57% of which were Windows XP systems with even Windows 7 registering 4,500 victim systems.
The company has not explained how the sum of $3.2 million was taken, nor from which types of user, but accounts across a wide range of applications were found to have been compromised. The three largest by some margin were Facebook, Yahoo and Google, but eBay, Amazon, PayPal and Skype also appear on the list.
"'Soldier' has mainly targeted US users and to increase the number of successful infections achieved in the US, he even bought US traffic from other cybercriminals. Besides using malware to steal money from the compromised accounts, he also steals user security credentials," Trend Micro said.
"Compromise on such a mass scale is not that unusual for criminals using toolkits like SpyEye, but the amounts stolen and the number of large organizations potentially impacted is cause for serious concern."
Banking Trojans such as SpyEye and the older Zeus (possibly now merged with SpyEye) have been one of the malware stories of the last year, and have featured in a number of high-profile online crime cases.
In the UK this included a teen gang said to have stolen as much as £12 million ($18 million) from a range of activities including online bank fraud. Earlier in 2010, a separate gang using Zeus was able to steal up to £20 million ($30 million), police believe.