UPDATE 2-U.S. charges two Russian residents in hacking, malware conspiracy

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FILE PHOTO: A computer keyboard lit by a displayed cyber code is seen in this illustration picture taken on March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two Russian residents have been criminally charged in the United States over an alleged multi-year scheme to steal money and property by using malware to hack into computers, according to an indictment made public on Thursday.

Maksim Yakubets was accused of being the leader of a group of conspirators involved with Bugat malware and botnet, while his close associate Igor Turashev allegedly handled various functions for the conspiracy, the indictment said.

The indictment identifies Yakubets as one of the earliest users of a family of malicious software tools called Bugat — better known as Dridex — which has been bedeviling American banks and businesses for more than eight years.

Cybersecurity experts say the malware, which first appeared in late 2011, is responsible for millions of dollars in damages worldwide. It has long been speculated to be the brainchild of a Russian hacking group.

The conspiracy allegedly began around November 2011, and several companies were among the defendants’ victims, according to the indictment filed with the federal court in Pittsburgh.

The indictment is dated Nov. 12 but was unsealed on Thursday.

U.S. and British authorities are expected later Thursday to detail charges against a Russian national over allegations of computer hacking and bank fraud schemes, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement.

That announcement characterized the Russian national as being “allegedly responsible for two of the worst computer hacking and bank fraud schemes of the past decade.”

Reporting by Susan Heavy, Lisa Lambert and Jonathan Stempel; additional reporting by Raphael Satter Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Nick Zieminski

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