MATTHEW BARAKAT, 27 June 2020
A Russian computer hacker who facilitated $20 million in credit card fraud and ran a sophisticated clearinghouse for international cybercriminals was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison.
Prosecutors say Aleksey Burkov of St. Petersburg, Russia, filled a unique niche in the world of cybercrime, describing his Direct Connection website as “the most exclusive criminal forum on the web.” Would-be participants had to put up a $5,000 bond and have three existing members vouch for them. Once inside, members could buy and sell stolen credit-card numbers, hacking services and malware, and criminals with different skill sets could join forces to launch schemes.
“You’ve made it as a criminal once you get on Direct Connection because you have access to the best criminals in the world,” prosecutor Kellen Dwyer said at Friday’s sentencing hearing.
The website — which ran from 2009 until 2015, when Burkov was arrested — even had an arbitration feature to mediate disputes between members who conducted transactions on the site.
A second website, Card Planet, offered stolen credit-card numbers for sale from anywhere from $3 to $60, according to court records. More than 150, 000 numbers were offered for sale, mostly stolen from US financial institutions. The site even offered money-back guarantees if a stolen number didn’t work.