Alleged Zeus botnet master nabbed in Bangkok

Financial malware netted 'Happy Hacker' $100m over three years, authorities claim.

Hand coming out of screen stealing credit card

An Algerian hacker arrested in Thailand on 6 January is the master of a botnet that stole $100 million (62 million) from banks worldwide, it is claimed.

Dubbed the Happy Hacker' because of his smiling appearance, 24-year-old computer sciences graduate Hamza Bendelladj was arrested in Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, following a tip-off from the FBI.

Bendelladj, who is said to have gone by the handle bx1, is alleged to have been in command of a significant Botnet using two of the most notorious financial malwares of the past five years, ZeuS and SpyEye.

Thai immigration bureau chief Pharnu Kerdlarpphon told a press conference Bendelladj had allegedly hacked private accounts held in 217 banks and financial institutions worldwide, amassing huge amounts of money, the Bangkok Post reports.

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"With just one transaction he could earn 10 to 20 million dollars. He's been travelling the world, flying first class and living a life of luxury," Kerdlarpphon said.

At the press conference, Bendelladj laughed off suggestions from the Thai authorities that he was on the FBI's top-10 most wanted list, saying he was "maybe just 20th or 50th", before denying he is a terrorist.

He is now awaiting extradition to the US state of Georgia.

Commenting on Bendelladj's detention, Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes, told IT Pro: "Arrests like this do not typically impact the volume of threats in the short term, because there are so many variants in the wild, but over time more virulent zero-day Trojans will take the mantle.

"The power in coordinated law-enforcement actions is more that they act as a deterrent for aspiring malware-writers, proving that it is not easy to remain electronically hidden from the police," Kleczynski added.

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