A 28-year-old Russian man accused of developing and selling a hacking tool used to obtain the login information for tens of thousands of computers worldwide was arrested in the country of Georgia and extradited to the US, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
Dariy Pankov is accused of advertising access to more than 35,000 computers, earning more than $350,000 in illicit sales, and enabling cybercriminals to conduct ransomware attacks and tax fraud, prosecutors said.
Pankov’s arrest is the latest move by US law enforcement agencies to try to nab accused Russian cybercriminals who venture outside of Russia. US President Joe Biden in 2021 urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to rein in criminal hackers, but Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine a year ago has soured hopes of bilateral cooperation on the issue.
After being arrested in Georgia, which borders Russia, in October, Pankov made an initial appearance in a federal court in Tampa on Tuesday, the US attorney for the Middle District of Florida said in a statement.
Igor Litvak, an attorney for Pankov, told CNN his client maintains his innocence and is pleading not guilty.
Pankov is being held in Pinellas County Jail outside of Tampa, where he was booked on Monday, Sgt. Amanda Sinni, a spokesperson for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN.
The hacking tool that Pankov is accused of developing – known as “NLBrute” – used a common technique for cracking passwords by flooding a computer with password guesses.
Numerous cybercrime groups have used the NLBrute tool, according to Adam Meyers, senior vice president of intelligence at cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike.
“It’s like a lockpick gun for burglars,” Meyers told CNN.
News of Pankov’s arrest follows the January arrest of a Russian cryptocurrency executive in Miami who allegedly oversaw the exchange of hundreds of millions of dollars with drug traffickers and cybercriminals.