Former Russian eSports team owner charged in largest financial hack ever

The massive hacking ring was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.


Patrick Howell O'Neill

Internet Culture

Published Jul 26, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 10:36 am CDT

It’s been a year since it was reported that former Moscow 5 gaming team owner Dmitry “ddd1ms” Smilianets had been arrested in a global operation by the FBI’s cybercrime units. The Russian was finally charged Thursday, along with three fellow countrymen and a Ukranian, for running a sophisticated hacking organization, reports AP.

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Smilianets is being charged with being part of an organization that stole and sold “at least” 160 million credit and debit card numbers and penetrated computer networks of more than a dozen corporations around the globe, including NASDAQ, 7-Eleven, JCPenney, Dow Jones, and more, resulting in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars. 

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“NASDAQ is owned,” wrote Aleksander Kalinin, one of the the members of the ring, in January 2008, after hacking his way into administrative access on the stock exchange’s network. The methodical attack took more than six months to complete.

Online payment processing companies were hard hit in particular. Heartland Payment Systems Inc. alleged $200M was lost to the hackers, while Global Payment Systems claims $93M in losses. Visa apparently lost 800,000 card numbers to the group as well, but no loss figures were available.

The hacking group included Smilianets, 29, Vladimir Drinkman, 32, Aleksander Kalinin, 26, Roman Kotov, 32, all from Russia, and Mikhail Rytikov, 26, from Odessa, Ukraine.

Smilianets is charged with being the group’s “information salesmen.” He was arrested while in the United States sightseeing, his lawyer told the Associated Press. However, last year, an official statement on Moscow 5’s website said he was arrested in Amsterdam by Dutch police.

Fellow suspect Drinkman is in custody in the Netherlands awaiting extradition while the others remain at large.

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Smilianet’s arrest spelled doom for Moscow 5, known as M5. Founded in 2001, M5 boasted world class teams in popular games such as Counter-Strike 1.6. Following the arrest, the team originally claimed it would carry on despite their founder’s ill fortune. They promised that their Dota 2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike teams would continue to attend tournaments around the world. 

By January 2013, the team had run out of funding and was disbanded.

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*First Published: Jul 26, 2013, 10:02 am CDT