One of the eight hackers accused of false advertising schemes on the dark web in November 2018 has now been extradited to the United States.
Russian national Alexander Zhukov, also known under the pseudonym “Nastra,” was indicted for developing two advertising schemes, one in 2014 and another in 2015.
Both fraud projects included broadcasting through inaccessible data centers and computer networks infected with malware.
The eight-person hacker group composed of mostly Russians earned millions of dollars from their clients. Zhukov’s monthly income was around $20,000.
The hacker was finally exposed after a conflict between him and one of his U.S. clients. He was apprehended in Bulgaria late last year and was extradited to the U.S. earlier this month.
‘Nastra’ and Fraud Schemes
Originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia, Zhukov was living in Bulgaria at the time of his arrest. He was based in Varna, Bulgaria since 2010.
Russian newspaper Kommersant first reported Zhukov’s arrest, and the legal battle began in early November of last year.
Inside dark web hacker circles, Zhukov under alias “Nastra” was a Russian hacker that managed a 50-server network.
He later allegedly rented the servers with a purpose of increasing views of video advertisements.
Zhukov and his group of hackers were the creators of two fraud schemes in 2014 and 2015.
Their first scheme, dubbed “Methbot,” involved stimulating people’s views on ads placed on websites. This activity tricked numerous businesses, and the fake views ultimately granted the hackers over $7 million in revenue.
The second scheme, still nameless, involved only two members of the group. The two hackers, one of which was allegedly Zhukov, operated a network of fake advertisements.
The activity was enabled by the use of 1.7 million computers infected with malware. These computers falsified billions of views for the ads, which was the function of the fraudulent ad network.
Similar to their first course of swindle actions, this activity deceived numerous businesses into paying for views. The two hackers earned over $29 million.
The service Zhukov offered cost a monthly payment of $20. The affordable sum initiated many businesses to be nothing but unfortunate victims of the hacker’s games.
The Arrest and Extradition
Zhukov was apprehended on Nov. 6, 2018. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Department of Justice charged him and his co-defendants with several alleged crimes.
According to the indictment [PDF], Zhukov was charged with counts of wire fraud by operating a data center-based scheme, money laundering conspiracy and engaging in monetary transactions with unlawfully obtained property.
Before he was caught, Zhukov was considered to have a connection to a fraud scheme investigation by Buzzfeed News.
However, it was later proven that Zhukov had nothing to do with the app scams, as those hoaxes, according to Google’s security team, were dependent on a botnet known as TechSnab.
What led to Zhukov’s arrest was nothing but a deal gone wrong. His actions caught the attention of the advertising networks after the hacker had an argument with one of his U.S. customers.
Following the altercation, Zhukov proceeded to turn up all servers he had against one video inventory of the same customer. This action generated millions of ad views, which ultimately exposed Zhukov’s operations.
At the request of the U.S. authorities, the Bulgarian police arrested Zhukov.
Due to Bulgaria’s NATO membership and the U.S. extradition treaty, Zhukov fought extradition for several months.
He was officially extradited on Jan. 18 and is currently being held at a jail in Brooklyn, New York.