Romanian National Faces Decades in US Prison over ‘Bulletproof Hosting’

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A Romanian national has been charged for allegedly running a ‘bulletproof hosting’ service that helped cybercriminals distribute some of the world’s most nefarious malware and dodge antivirus solutions, the US Department of Justice said in a press release.

Mihai Ionut Paunescu, a dual Romanian and Latvian national, was extradited from Colombia and charged with several counts of facilitating cybercrime.

The 37-year-old allegedly ran a ‘bulletproof hosting’ service that enabled cybercriminals throughout the world to spread the Gozi virus and other malware and to commit numerous other cybercrimes.

Gozi is considered one of the most financially destructive pieces of malware in history, having inflicted tens of millions of dollars in losses on people whose computers were infected.

Paunescu’s hosting services allegedly helped cybercriminals distribute Gozi with little fear of detection by law enforcement.

“Bulletproof hosts provided cyber criminals using the Gozi Virus with the critical online infrastructure they needed, such as Internet Protocol (‘IP’) addresses and computer servers, in a manner designed to enable them to preserve their anonymity,” the DOJ` explains.

Paunescu’s services are said to have helped cybercriminals do much more than just hide Gozi from detection mechanisms. He is accused of enabling many other cybercrimes, including distributing the Zeus and SpyEye trojans, initiating and executing DDoS attacks, and transmitting spam.

The defendant allegedly did his part as follows:

· Rented servers and IP addresses from legitimate Internet service providers and then rented them to cybercriminals

· Provided servers that cybercriminals used as command-and-control servers in DDoS attacks

· Monitored IP addresses that he controlled to determine if they appeared on a special list of suspicious or untrustworthy IP addresses

· Relocated his customers’ data to different networks and IP addresses, including networks and IP addresses in other countries, to avoid being blocked as a result of private security or law enforcement scrutiny

Paunescu is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Combined, the charges amount to a maximum 60 years behind bars.