Russian National Sentenced to Prison for Creating Online 'Safe Haven' for Cybercriminals

A Russian national was sentenced to five years in prison for creating a series of safe havens for online cybercriminals to use, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wednesday.

Aleksandr Grichishkin, 34, was sentenced to 60 months behind bars after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in a racketeer-influenced corrupt organization (RICO). Passed in 1970, the RICO Act outlines federal penalties for those found guilty of criminal enterprising in the United States, specifically concerning racketeer-influenced corrupt organizations.

Grichishkin, along with a number of co-conspirators, was the founder of a specialized illegal online organization. This organization, known as a bulletproof hosting service, "rented internet protocol (IP) addresses, servers, and domains to cybercriminal clients," according to DOJ court documents.

Using these rented servers, cybercriminals were able to participate in numerous illicit activities. This often involved the use of these illegal IP addresses to take control of victims' computers and steal banking and other secure information.

Additionally, a number of these cybercriminals used malware to attack significant U.S. financial companies from 2009 to 2015, the DOJ stated. This resulted in the potential loss of millions of dollars across these institutions.

Russian Cybercrime
A Russian man was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in creating a safe haven for cybercriminals to conduct illicit activities via the internet. This included alleged racketeering and fraudulent schemes. Above is a photo illustration depicting a cybercriminal. iStock/Getty

As the head of the group and its daily leader, Grichishkin "oversaw efforts to advertise the organization's bulletproof hosting services in online cybercrime forums, [and] set pricing for these services," court documents continued.

Beyond renting out these servers, Grichishkin assisted his cybercriminal hosts in evading detection from law enforcement. He also "flagged content to new infrastructure, and [registered] all such infrastructure under false or stolen identities," the DOJ added.

Three of Grichishkin's co-conspirators were also charged in the plot, and two of them have already been sentenced.

Pavel Stassi, 30, of Estonia, was sentenced to two years in prison in June, and Aleksandr Skorodumov, 33, of Lithuania, was given a four-year sentence in October. Both of the men had previously pleaded guilty to the same RICO conspiracy charge.

At the time of their sentencings, an assistant U.S. attorney general had stated that "cybercrime presents a serious and persistent threat to the United States, and these prosecutions send a clear message that 'bulletproof hosters' who purposely aid other cybercriminals are responsible, and will be held accountable, for the harms their criminal clients cause within our borders."

The final co-conspirator, Russian Andrei Skvortsov, 34, has already pleaded guilty and is still awaiting sentencing. He faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars.

The case against the group was mainly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with assistance from foreign governments including Germany, the United Kingdom, and Estonia.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Embassy for comment.