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Money Bitcoin scams: 10 years in prison required against Russian "hacker" Alexander Vinnik

19:50  23 october  2020
19:50  23 october  2020 Source:   ouest-france.fr

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Le pirate informatique russe Alexander Vinnik risque jusqu’à 10 ans de prison. © REUTERS / Dado Ruvic Russian hacker Alexander Vinnik faces up to 10 years in prison.

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An "pirate of international scope" , "pioneer" of cyberattacks : ten years in prison were required Friday, October 23, 2020 against the Russian Alexander Vinnik , tried in Paris for a case of fraud in the bitcoin involving tens of millions of euros.

Against "the conductor" of the Locky ransomware, which killed nearly 200 people in France between 2016 and 2018, and "the master" of the bitcoin exchange platform BTC-e on which the ransoms were paid, the prosecutor also asked for the maximum fine of 750,000 €.

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An "extremely talented hacker"

Alexander Vinnik, 41, maintains that he has "nothing to do with this virus" and presents himself as "simple freelance operator" for the BTC-e platform, top place of money laundering. But since the opening of his trial on Monday, he has been unable to stop from sharing his knowledge of cyber and bitcoin with us, , notes prosecutor Johanna Brousse at the start of her indictment.

The one who defined himself as "self-taught" is above all an "extremely gifted pirate" , "extremely intelligent", she says, and a "pioneer" , among the first to have created a ransomware "particularly lucrative" before "the explosion of the phenomenon" .

"He holds the system, he gives the orders," insists she, even though she is "certain" that he "did not act alone" .

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"You have real victims"

Throughout his presentation, Alexander Vinnik, slim figure with short hair, remains unmoved.

Locky malware encrypted data on computer systems, making it inaccessible unless you pay a cryptocurrency ransom to obtain a decryption key. In total, it has claimed some 5,700 lives worldwide and is believed to have caused damage estimated in 2018 at nearly 135 million euros.

This crime is “lucrative” but also “dangerous”, insists the prosecutor. In France, it wreaked havoc , affected public services (family allowances are among the victims) but also many town halls, associations, companies and individuals.

At the stand, a victim, a 68-year-old lawyer, told how she had “lost four years of (her) life, four years of work, of health, of social life” after the hack. The ransom demanded was equivalent to € 2,800. "If I could have imagined for a moment what a mess I would find myself in afterwards, maybe I would have paid," had said.

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"This is what a cyberattack is, you have real victims", insisted the prosecutor, asking the court to send "a message" to cybercriminals "hidden behind their screens on the other side of the world ": we will go " track them down " for " judge them here ".

"The United States and Europeans do not like Russia"

The trial was held all week in a particularly electric atmosphere, the defense of Alexander Vinnik regularly interrupting the debates to denounce "trick questions" .

Rather silent at first, Alexander Vinnik, who had remained silent in front of the investigators, spoke more then. To evoke the illness of his wife, in palliative care at the age of 35 for generalized cancer, and the “trauma” of the separation from his young children, present during his arrest in 2017 on a beach in Greece where he was on vacation.

Then to comment on what he said was botched work by French and American investigators - the United States has pronounced 21 charges against him and hopes to recover him once the French proceedings are over.

"How do you explain when everything points towards you" , had asked the prosecutor? “I am Russian. The United States and the Europeans don't like Russia, " had replied, defining himself as an " military trophy ".

After his arrest, the Greeks favored the European arrest warrant and handed over to France Alexander Vinnik who would have preferred to be extradited to Russia, where he is also claimed by a minor swindle.

Defense oral argument continues on Friday afternoon.

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