Thursday, August 20, 2009

In Gonzalez Hacking Case, a High-Stakes Fight Over a Ukranian's Laptop

Kim Zetter writes on Threat Level:

When Turkish police arrested Maksym “Maksik” Yastremskiy — a Ukrainian wholesaler of stolen identity data — in July 2007, they didn’t just collar one of the most-wanted cybercriminals in the world. They also got a trove of evidence about Yastremskiy’s buyers and suppliers, all locked in an encrypted vault on his laptop computer.

Now federal prosecutors are hoping to introduce a copy of Yastremskiy’s files in its case against accused hacker Albert “Segvec” Gonzales. Chat logs and other information on the disk allegedly show that Gonzalez was Yastremskiy’s major supplier of credit and debit card numbers.

But Gonzalez’s attorney is fighting to keep the data, and similar information seized from a server in Latvia, far away from the New York court room where Gonzalez is scheduled to stand trial next month on the first of three federal indictments. The argument unfolding over the disks illustrates the challenges and controversies of using electronic evidence gathered in foreign jurisdictions, and sheds more light on the unusual methods used to investigate what authorities have called the largest identity theft case in U.S. history.

Gonzalez and his co-conspirators staged high-profile breaches at TJX, Heartland Payment Systems, Dave & Buster’s and other retailers and payment processors.

One notable revelation in the government’s own filings [.pdf] is that Yastremskiy’s arrest did not mark the first time the Secret Service gained access to his computer files. On June 14, 2006 the Secret Service worked with local authorities to conduct a “sneak-and-peek” search of Yastremskiy’s laptop while he was traveling through Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. The agency secretly obtained a copy of the man’s hard drive in the search.

More here.


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