Spain holds Russian hacking suspect wanted by US

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Spain holds Russian hacking suspect wanted by US

Madrid, Apr 10 (AFP) A Spanish judge today ordered a Russian computer expert to be remanded in custody on US allegations of large-scale hacking, judicial and police sources said.

Judge Carmen Lamela gave the order for Piotr Levashov, who was arrested at Barcelona airport on Friday, to be kept behind bars, a judicial source told AFP.

Spanish police said in a statement late today that the arrest was the result of a “complex inquiry carried out in collaboration with the American FBI”.

“The arrested man, aged 36, had notably created over several years an online infrastructure in ‘botnet’ form, networking computers unbeknown to their owners for illegal activities,” the statement said.

“The arrested man controlled the Kelihos botnet formed by hundreds of thousands of computers located internationally,” police added.

Authorities “proceeded to dismantle the IT infrastructure…liberating on a massive scale victims’ computers which were infected by the virus that he was using to take control of them”.

Police said he had “not only taken all kinds of personal data” from the hijacked computers, but he had “also infected them with malicious software, mostly of the ‘ransomware’ type”, blocking access to information and demanding a ransom for its release.

Investigators said Levashov was believed to have been “carrying out this type of activities for more than 10 years, earning huge profits”.

Contrary to what the suspect’s wife had earlier told Russia Today, and reported by other media, the man was not wanted for allegedly hacking the US presidential election.

Maria Levashova had told the TV channel her husband was detained “at the request of the American authorities” and that Spanish police had told her it was in connection with “a virus which appears to have been created by my husband (and) is linked to (Donald) Trump’s victory”.

The claim was strongly denied by Washington, with a source close to the matter telling AFP that Levashov’s detention “is not tied to anything involving allegations of Russian interference with the US election”.

Levashov was subject to a US international arrest warrant for IT crimes, according to a Spanish judicial source.

A Spanish court specialising in international cases will rule on whether he will be sent to the US.

The US has 40 days to present evidence backing Levashov’s extradition, which the suspect opposes. AFP RC

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.