In the biggest hacking scheme ever, prosecutors have charged a group of Eastern European hackers with stealing credit-card information netting them hundreds of millions of dollars, among the records stolen were details relating to thousands of Australians.
The scheme was allegedly run by four Russian nationals and a Ukrainian who hacked, stole and sold 160 million credit card numbers from more than a dozen companies. How they come to be in US hands has yet to be revealed.
Victims in the scheme included US retailers JC Penney; 7-Eleven; JetBlue; Heartland Payment Systems, one of the world's largest credit and debit processing companies; and French retailer Carrefour.
According to the indictment, members of the conspiracy scouted potential victims, including visiting retail stores to identify their payment-processing systems.
The group sometimes installed software on the corporate computer systems so that they could create electronic back doors giving them access to the systems at a later date, its also emerged that the hackers set up fake web sites which netted Australians looking for cheap US products.
The hackers carried out their attacks with a network of leased computers across the globe, according to the indictment. The men were allegedly associated with Albert Gonzalez, a Miami man who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2010, the longest term ever imposed in a US hacking case. Gonzalez was described as an alleged co-conspirator in the indictment.