Computer Crime Research Center


Computer crimes review

Date: March 24, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Dmitri Kramarenko

Two Kazakhstan men have been arrested in London for allegedly breaking into Bloomberg L.P.'s Manhattan computer system in an attempt to extort $200,000 from the business news service and its owner, Michael Bloomberg. Oleg Zezov, who was employed by Kazkommerts Securities in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Igor Yarimaka were arrested in August 2000 on two extortion related counts and one count of computer intrusion.

According to the complaints, Michael Bloomberg was part of a sting operation at a London hotel during which the defendants were arrested. They are currently being held in Britain and the United States is seeking their extradition. Zezov allegedly entered Bloomberg's system through computers in Almaty. In the spring of 1999 Bloomberg provided database services, via a system known as Open Bloomberg, to Kazkommerts Securities.

Zezov is one of four individuals at Kazkommerts associated with Kazkommerts contract with Bloomberg. Criminals believed they could intimidate companies with threats of computer hacking and/or the spreading of malicious accusations, Bloomberg said in a statement. This global operation showed that private industry can stand up for its property rights and does not have to submit to such blackmail. The complaint against Zezov allege that he sent a number of e-mails to Michael Bloomberg demanding that Bloomberg pay him $200,000 in exchange for revealing information about how he infiltrated the company's computer system. One of the e-mail addresses Zezov used to contact Bloomberg was [email protected]

On March 27, a Bloomberg representative contacted the FBI and said that Michael Bloomberg had received e-mail from an individual using the [email protected] address and identifying himself in the text of the letter as Alex. Prosecutors alleged that Zezov was the author of the e-mail. In the e-mail, Zezov allegedly said he was not a criminal but intended to help you understand some drawbacks of your system. Among these was that Bloomberg Traveller, a smaller, more portable version of a Bloomberg terminal, had security problems. The same day, Bloomberg received a multi-page fax that consisted of a printout of Bloomberg computer screens containing personal information about Michael Bloomberg, including his employee identification photograph, his computer username and password at Bloomberg and credit card numbers. Bloomberg officials told the FBI that his information was only accessible to certain authorised persons and was not among data available to Bloomberg clients. At the direction of the FBI, Michael Bloomberg replied to the [email protected] address stating he was interested in the information and asking how to arrange for payment. In an April 3 e-mail, Zezov allegedly demanded $200,000 and Bloomberg responded that they should meet in person. Zezov then allegedly demanded that Bloomberg deposit the money in an offshore account. Bloomberg, at the FBI's direction, opened an account in Deutsche Bank in London and deposited the sum. While Zezov was able to confirm that the account had been opened, he could not withdraw any funds. Zezov said he wanted control over the account and Bloomberg then suggested they resolve the matter in a face-to-face meeting in London.

Zezov and Yarimaka flew from Kazakhstan to London and met with Bloomberg on Aug. 10 at the Hilton Hotel. Bloomberg was accompanied by two London police officers, one posing as a Bloomberg executive and the other serving as translator. Zezov introduced himself as Alex and Yarimaka said he was a former Kazakhstan prosecutor representing Alex in the payment matter. The defendants allegedly reiterated their demands at the meeting and were arrested.

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