Detroit, Michigan - A Russian man was sentenced Wednesday for providing “bulletproof hosting” services, which were used by cybercriminals between 2009 to 2015 to distribute malware and attack financial institutions and victims throughout the United States.
On Dec. 1, Chief Judge Denise Page Hood of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan sentenced Aleksandr Grichishkin, 34, of Russia, to 60 months in prison for the scheme.
According to court documents, Grichishkin was a founder and leader of a bulletproof hosting organization that rented internet protocol (IP) addresses, servers, and domains to cybercriminal clients who employed this technical infrastructure to disseminate malware that allowed them to gain access to victims’ computers, form botnets, and steal banking credentials for use in frauds. Malware hosted by the organization included Zeus, SpyEye, Citadel, and the Blackhole Exploit Kit, which attacked U.S. companies and financial institutions between 2009 and 2015 and caused or attempted to cause millions of dollars in losses to U.S. victims.
Grichishkin also helped clients evade detection by law enforcement and continue their crimes uninterrupted by monitoring sites used to blocklist technical infrastructure used for crime, moving “flagged” content to new infrastructure, and registering all such infrastructure under false or stolen identities. On June 28 and Oct. 20, respectively, Chief Judge Hood sentenced two of Grichishkin’s co-conspirators, Pavel Stassi, 30, of Estonia, to 24 months in prison and Aleksandr Skorodumov, 33, of Lithuania, to 48 months in prison for their roles in the scheme.
According to court filings and statements made in connection with the defendants’ guilty pleas, Grichishkin was one of the organization’s founders and proprietors, and its day-to-day leader. In this role, he oversaw efforts to advertise the organization’s bulletproof hosting services in online cybercrime forums, set pricing for these services, negotiated and interfaced with clients seeking internet infrastructure to be used in spamming and malware operations, managed employee hiring and compensation, and supervised the systems administrators’ and other employees’ work. He also regularly instructed other members of the organization on how to “resolve” abuse notices by, among other methods, moving the affected clients’ data to new, “clean” domains and IP addresses.
Stassi, Skorodumov, Grichishkin, and a fourth defendant, Andrei Skvortsov, 34, of Russia, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in a racketeer influenced corrupt organization. Skvortsov is pending sentencing and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine his sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI investigated the case with critical assistance from law enforcement partners in Germany, Estonia, and the United Kingdom.
Senior Counsel Louisa K. Marion of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick E. Corbett of the Eastern District of Michigan prosecuted the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance.