Crime

US Arrests Alleged Russian 'Spammer' Kingpin In Spain

| by Ray Brown

A Russian computer programmer suspected of being one of the world's most notorious "spammers" was arrested in Spain at the request of U.S. authorities.

Pyotr Levashov was in Spain on vacation with his family when police apprehended him. The U.S. Justice Department has not released an explanation for the arrest.

"The U.S. case remains under seal, so we have no information to provide at this time," said Peter Carr, a spokesman for the criminal division of the DOJ, according to The Guardian.

RT originally reported that Levashov was arrested in connection to allegations of "hacking" the 2016 presidential election, but subsequent reporting indicates that might not be the reason, according to cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs.

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Krebs reported that Levashov is notorious for being one of the world's top spammers and the DOJ suspects Severa was the Russian partner of Alan Ralsky, a convicted American spammer who used "pump-and-dump" spam schemes -- a financial crime in which a group artificially inflates the value of penny stocks and then sell them to duped buyers, who eventually lose money when the value drops.

Krebs also reported that Severa might be responsible for running a criminal enterprise that paid virus writers and spammers to install fake antivirus software.

"So-called 'fake AV' uses malware and/or programming tricks to bombard the victim with misleading alerts about security threats, hijacking the PC until its owner either pays for a license to the bogus security software or figures out how to remove the invasive program," he wrote.

Although Levashov is suspected of a wide range of serious cybercrimes, the Los Angeles Times reported that RT quoted his wife, Maria Levashova, who said her husband told her he was arrested because of "Trump's election win."

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The U.S. government has accused Russian hackers of interfering with the 2016 presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee's computer servers and releasing email correspondence between party leaders.

The narrative has been seized upon by Democratic Party members who argue that President Donald Trump's unexpected victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is illegitimate.

The ongoing investigation has been a political headache for Trump as the FBI and the House Intelligence Committee are each conducting investigations into the allegations.

The president has also come under fire because members of his campaign staff and administration have met with Russian government officials in the past, although several Russian government officials live and work in Washington, D.C. to communicate with the U.S. government and lobbying groups.

Trump has repeatedly described the accusations that his campaign colluded with the Russian government as "fake news."

Sources: Krebs on SecurityLos Angeles Times, The Guardian / Photo credit: Bankenverband - Bundesverband deutscher Banken/Flickr

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