The least interesting thing about the alleged Russian hacker who appeared Tuesday morning in a Virginia courtroom may end up being the charges he faces there. The Justice Department indicted Aleksei Yurievich Burkov on five counts related to his alleged role from from 2009 to 2013 running an online criminal marketplace, known as CardPlanet, that sold stolen credit card numbers. The scale of CardPlanet, as online forums go, was relatively small—150,000 stolen payment cards that resulted in about $20 million in fraudulent purchases, a far cry from the bust last year of the reportedly $530 million “In Fraud We Trust” marketplace.
You can read the 2016 Burkov indictment in full below. Unsealed Tuesday, it alleges that the 29-year-old former St. Petersburg resident used both CardPlanet and another online forum to commit financial fraud, and outlines how much cybercrime now resembles legitimate online businesses and shopping sites. Burkov, the indictment alleges, sold card details for between $2.50 and $10 a card, and even offered a literal money-back guarantee: He would refund the price of any cards that proved invalid. He also offered a special fee-based service, known as “checker,” that let would-be criminals instantly validate stolen card data. To keep out law enforcement, every prospective member of Burkov’s forum had to be “vouched for” by three existing members.
What separates Burkov’s case from run-of-the-mill online financial fraud, though, is the geopolitics that have unfolded since he was originally arrested in Israel nearly four years ago. Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which in recent years has become ground zero for harboring cybercriminals, has begun aggressively fighting to protect hackers that ..