Russian Malware Developer Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Commit Wire And Computer Fraud

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Dariy Pankov (28, Vasil’yevskoye, Russia) has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and computer fraud. Pankov faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Pankov has agreed to forfeit $358,437, the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to the plea agreement, Pankov developed a malicious software program named “NLBrute.” The powerful malware was capable of compromising protected computers by decrypting login credentials, such as passwords. Pankov used NLBrute to obtain the login credentials of tens of thousands of computers located all over the world. He marketed and sold, and had others sell on his behalf, NLBrute to other cybercriminals for a fee. Pankov sold the stolen login credentials on a dark web website that specialized in the purchase and sale of access to compromised computers. Once sold, those credentials were used to facilitate a wide range of illegal activity, including ransomware attacks and tax fraud. Pankov listed the credentials of more than 35,000 compromised computers for sale on the website, and obtained more than $350,000 in illicit proceeds.

Pankov, a citizen and resident of Russia, was taken into custody by Georgian authorities in the Republic of Georgia on October 4, 2022, and extradited to the United States.

This case was led by the IRS Criminal Investigation (Tampa Field Office) and the Tampa Division of the FBI. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance to secure the arrest and extradition of Pankov. The United States Marshals Service also provided significant assistance. This investigation also benefited from foreign law enforcement cooperation by the Georgian Prosecutor General’s Office, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Internal Affairs. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carlton C. Gammons.

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