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Russian man pleads guilty, admits he ran notorious Kelihos botnet

Peter Yuryevich Levashov was first indicted relating to the Storm botnet back in 2009. During a hearing in federal court in Hartford, Connecticut, on Wednesday, Peter Yuryevich Levashov admitted guilt in one count of causing intentional damage to a protected computer, one count of conspiracy, one count of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. The 38-year-old Russians botnet, which dated back to 2010, spanned more than 10,000 machines and was primarily used to send out spam, steal logins, distribute ransomware, and more. Federal authorities shut it down in 2017. "For over two decades, Peter Levashov operated botnets which enabled him to harvest personal information from infected computers, disseminate spam, and distribute malware used to facilitate multiple scams," said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski in a statement. The Department of Justice said that Levashov "controlled and operated multiple botnets, including the Storm, Waledac, and Kelihos botnets to harvest personal information and means of identification (including email addresses, usernames and logins, and passwords) from infected computers." In 2009, he was formally charged in the District of Columbia with operating the "Storm" botnet. As Ars has previously reported, Levashov has long been on a list of the World's Ten Worst Spammers, maintained by antispam volunteer organization Spamhaus. Levashov was arrested in Barcelona, Spain, in April 2017 and was extradited to the United States in February 2018, where he has remained in custody. His sentencing has been scheduled for September 6, 2019.

Kelihos botnet operator pleads guilty to hacking and fraud charges

The Russian's plea ends a long saga. The Kelihos botnet story appears to be winding to a close. Russian Peter Levashov has pleaded guilty to charges relating his operation of the botnet, including intentional damage to a computer, wire fraud, conspiracy and identity theft. He reportedly used Kelihos to spread spam email, collect login details, install ransomware and otherwise attack users' computers, including selling access to the botnet. Sentencing isn't scheduled until September 6th, 2019, although Levashov will remain "detained" until then. Spanish authorities arrested him in April 2017 (his wife incorrectly attributed it to election hacking) and extradited him in February 2018. Arrests and convictions over botnets are nothing new, but this plea represents a symbolic victory for American law enforcement. Levashov is a rare example of a veteran botnet creator, having started in the late 1990s. Officials have previously linked him to the Storm and Waledac botnets, for instance. His prison time won't lead to a sharp drop in botnets, but it may serve as a warning to other career bot jockeys.