The US is set for the trial of alleged Russian cyber criminal Vladimir Drinkman after he was extradited from the Netherlands.
He had been fighting extradition for two years since his arrest in the Netherlands on 28 June, 2012.
The US is demonstrating strong resolve to act against cyber criminals in extraditing Drinkman to face charges linked to the biggest international hacking and data breach to be prosecuted in the country to date.
The number of prosecutions of cyber criminals has been growing since 2013, when the US government announced plans to put diplomatic pressure on other governments over cyber crime and to prosecute offenders.
The Obama administration said the strategy is aimed at countering a “significant and steadily increasing threat” to US economic and national security interests.
The head of the US Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, has congratulated the US secret service on its “fine work” in securing the extradition.
“This successful extradition and arraignment highlights the talent and experience of the men and women of the secret service in combating cyber crime,” he said in a statement.
Drinkman's trial was set to start on 27 April 2015 after he appeared in the US district court in Newark this week and pleaded not guilty to 11 charges relating to hacking and fraud.
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He is alleged to have helped to steal sensitive financial data from major corporate networks, including 160 million payment card numbers used in identity theft schemes causing losses of more than $300m.
US authorities have also accused Drinkman and others of stealing user names, passwords and credentials.
The cyber criminal gang’s targets included technology firm stock exchange Nasdaq, French retailer Carrefour, Heartland Payment Systems, JetBlue, Dow Jones, Euronet and Visa-Jordan.
The US has charged four other suspects in connection with the raids, but only Drinkman and Dmitriy Smilianets are in US custody. Russians Aleksander Kalinin and Roman Kotov and Ukrainian Mikhail Rytikov are still at large.
In 2009, Drinkman and Kalinin were charged alongside Florida resident Albert Gonzalez over the Heartland Payment Systems breach and four other cyber attacks.
Gonzalez is currently serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison, and Smilianets was arrested in the Netherlands with Drinkman and extradited within three months.
Prosecutors said the five hid their activities by disabling antivirus software and storing data on multiple hacking platforms.
The cyber criminals allegedly used SQL injection attacks to infiltrate computer networks and created “back doors” with malware to keep the systems vulnerable.
Instant message chats obtained by federal agents show the hackers allegedly maintained access at some companies for more than a year, according to US reports.
Prosecutors said Drinkman and Kalinin specialised in penetrating network security and hacking into corporate systems. Kotov specialised in identifying data worth stealing.
Ukrainian Rytikov is believed to have run the anonymous web-hosting services that enabled the others to carry out their activities, while Smilianets allegedly sold stolen data and distributed the profits.
If found guilty on all charges, Drinkman faces up to 70 years in a federal prison.