Russian authorities have detained a Ukrainian national who oversaw a group that manufactured fraudulent payment cards and identity documents, according to a press release from the country's Interior Ministry on Monday.
The group, whose members also included Russian and Armenian nationals, stole money from the accounts of 17 Russian credit organisations as well as foreign banks, causing more than US$660,225 in damages.
Authorities seized 100 fraudulent cards, computer equipment and an "encoder," which can replicate the magnetic stripe information of a legitimate card onto a fraudulent one. The frauds occurred between January and June, the ministry said.
The Interior Ministry did not say if the action was related to a wide-ranging sting operation in the US, UK and Ukraine last week related to the use of the Zeus banking malware. An Interior Ministry official was unable to provide further information on Tuesday morning.
Authorities in those countries arrested more than 100 people, charging them with offenses ranging from money laundering to passport fraud to conspiracy. Many of those arrested were so-called "money mules," who agree to receive stolen funds into bank accounts and then subsequently wire the money to their superiors in the gang.
The action, however, was probably not related to the Zeus stings, since the Zeus gangs are not known for "carding," or the capturing of credit card details for the purposes of making fraudulent payment cards, said Alex Gostev, chief security expert for security software vendor Kaspersky Lab.
Also, the press release mentions clauses 187 and 159 of the Russian criminal code, which refers to forging payment documents and credit cards and property theft respectively, said Timur Tsoriev, head of Kaspersky's technology PR group. It doesn't not mention clause 273, which covers the creation and spreading of malware, he said.
Despite the vague press release, Russia's actions should be applauded, wrote Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
"While there are really not enough details to proclaim this to be Zeus, it's still praise-worthy action by the Russian government against criminals who are harming American interests over the Internet," Warner wrote.