US authorities have moved to take down a global computer botnet behind the massive theft of personal data and unwanted spam emails, as Spain arrested the notorious Russian hacker who operated it. US authorities said the Russian, Piotr or Peter Levashov, had operated the Kelihos network of tens of thousands of infected computers, stealing personal data and renting the network out to others to send spam emails by the millions and extort ransom from computer owners. Levashov, also known in the hacking world as Peter Severa, was arrested at Barcelona airport on Friday at the US request. A Spanish judge yesterday ordered him to be remanded in custody as Washington is expected to seek his extradition.
Spanish police said in a statement late yesterday that the arrest was the result of a “complex inquiry carried out in collaboration with the American FBI. A US indictment unsealed yesterday said Levashov, 36 and a native of St Petersburg, had operated the Kelihos botnet since around 2010.