Vladimir Tšaštšin, who was extradited to the US on charges of leading an international cyber scam in October 2014, has pleaded guilty to computer intrusion and wire fraud in Manhattan federal court.
Tšaštšin's enterprise has been dubbed "Estonian cyber crime of the century" by the local media. The 35-year-old Estonian citizen is believed to have been the ringleader in a huge malware scheme that infected more than four million computers worldwide, including those in several US government agencies like NASA, as well as in Google, Facebook, iTunes and NetFlix.
The perpetrators used a piece of malware called DNSChanger. The DNS (Domain Name System) is an Internet services that converts user-friendly domain names into the numerical addresses (IP addresses) that computers use to talk to each other. By controlling the user's DNS servers, they managed to direct browsers to fraudulent websites, from whom the gang would charge a referral fee. The 'clich-jacking' sceme is netted 20 million euros and was allegedly run by Tšaštšin, his associates and family members under a seemingly legitimate IT company Rove Digital from Tartu.
Tšaštšin and his accomplishes were caught in 2011 after a two-year international FBI 'Ghost Click' operation, described at the time as the biggest cyber criminal take-down in history.
"I knew what I was doing was wrong," Tšaštšin told US Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger as he described the scheme that spanned from 2007 to 2011, Associated Press reported, despite having previously maintained his innocence.
He is due to be sentenced in October and could face over six years in prison.
Tšaštšin's five accomplishes have also been extradited to the US and have admitted their roles in the conspiracy.
In addition, Tšaštšin is also being accused of selling fake anti-virus software to people after infecting their computers with scareware.
Editor: M. Oll