The FBI announced the most expensive bounty ever for a cybercriminal to help catch Evgeniy M. Bogachev, who was indicted in the U.S. for allegedly stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from bank around the world using a network of virus-infected computers.
The New York Times reported that the FBI has been trying to track down Bogachev, and last year the Obama administration even announced sanctions against him for his computer crimes.
Though Bogachev is a wanted criminal who has also been investigated by Russian authorities, the media outlet reported that his ability to exploit as many as a million computers across various counties could present an opportunity for espionage by Russia.
Officials told the Times that Russia grafted an intelligence operation across the infected machines that Bogachev was using to drain bank accounts, allowing them access to search for files and emails.
According to law enforcement officials and cybersecurity company Fox-IT, the Russian government focused on finding information related to military and intelligence services, specifically in eastern Ukraine and Syria.
Despite the fact that Russia has its own intelligence resources, it seems as though the country essentially piggybacked on the malicious activities of Bogachev in order to increase the reach of its espionage efforts.
One clue that points to Bogachev’s possible involvement with Russian intelligence is the fact that he is able to live openly in Russia, even though he is wanted by U.S. authorities. Since there is no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Russia, it’s expected that Bogachev will not be arrested unless he commits a crime on Russian territory.