Behind The Mask: The Lavish Lifestyles Of International Cyber Criminals


T-Mobile, one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the US, was hacked two weeks ago. The sensitive information of more than 50 million current, former, and prospective customers, will likely go up for sale on the dark web, netting the cyber-criminals a fortune large enough to afford a lavish lifestyle.

The purported thief was a 21-year-old US citizen residing in Turkey. The attacker, who goes by the alias John Binn, was offering to sell 30 million records for a penny each on an underground forum: what he claimed was a subset of 100 million customer records. He alleged that he was going to sell the other 50 million privately. Even at a penny each, that’s a cool 300k in profit, not counting the millions he stands to make on the privately sold records.

But Binn isn’t the only cyber-criminal who is making a fortune. There are thousands of others who are following the same path.

The U.S. has been subject to a string of severe cyber-attacks in recent years, many pinned on groups believed to be based in Russia or have ties to its government. The FBI blamed REvil for an attack on JBS, wiping out 20% of the country’s beef-producing capacity. DarkSide, another hacking group believed to have Russian links, attacked Colonial Pipeline in May, creating gas shortages as the key East Coast pipeline went offline for several days.

REvil is an ambitious criminal ransomware-as-a-service (RAAS) enterprise that first came to prominence in April 2019. JBS, the largest beef supplier in the world, paid the ransomware hackers who breached its computer networks about $11 million. They have claimed to have made more than $100 million in one year from extorting large businesses with ransomware attacks. Colonial Pipeline paid a $4.4 million ransom to the cyber-criminal gang DarkSide, responsible for taking the US fuel pipeline offline.

The Car Collections And Exotic Pets Of Cyber Criminals

Maksim “Aqua” Yakubets, a 32-year-old Russian man, leads the group and lives a life many could only dream of. Yakubets is known for his custom Lamborghini Huracan, a supercar that costs about $250 thousand before any customization. The Lambo boasts custom plates that shamelessly translate to ‘thief.’

But being the leader of a global cybercrime enterprise affords you much more than just a custom Lamborghini. His expensive car collection also consists of a Nissan GT-Ris covered in a bombastic blue and red skull pattern, a custom-painted Audi R8, and a Dodge Challenger.

In one photo, Evil Corp member Andrey Plotnitskiy poses with a bundle of cash. Another shows Yakubets ridiculously over the top wedding, which the NCA said in its announcement cost over a quarter of a million pounds ($340k).

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The Luxurious Spending Of The Hackers

In a similar story, an alleged Algerian computer hacker, 24-year-old Hamza Bendelladj, who was reported to have begun hacking into banks at the age of 20, said he spent his fortune on traveling and luxurious living, like flying first class and staying in luxury places. He is believed to have donated to several NGOs in Africa, and $280 Million was generously donated to a Palestinian NGO. Bendelladj was a hero to many, who overlook his crimes, because of his generous acts of charity.

A much younger hacker, Karim Baratov, emigrated from Kazakhstan to Canada with his parents at age 12, where he taught himself to code. Over the next few years, he registered over 80 websites to his name. Some of these sites provided hacking services, offering customers access to any email inbox they wanted. Baratov quickly became wealthy. By 14, he claimed to be earning more than both of his parents combined. By 15, he reportedly made his first million. Like members of Evil Corp and Bendelladj, he spent his money lavishly. He had two Rolexes and a taste for Armani and a luxury car collection. At age 20, he bought this house for $642,500.

The Ultimate Result Of Cyber Crimes

So, what kind of lifestyle does a cybercriminal get? They got to live awesomely and draped in designer labels. They usually collect expensive cars and have a penchant for anything that showcases their wealth, like exotic animals and lavish weddings where no expense is spared.

For many, the story ends with the wealthy hackers trading their Armani for an orange jumpsuit, both Baratov and Bendelladj were arrested, and if Evil Corp members leave Russia, they will likely be arrested as well.

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Source: AP News, Toronto Life, BBC

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