A 24-year-old Algerian man landed in Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday to face federal charges that he hijacked customer accounts at more than 200 banks and financial institutions, capping a months-long extradition battle.
Hamza Bendelladj, who went by the name Bx1 online, is also accused of operating botnets of machines infected with the SpyEye banking trojan, and is suspected of operating Zeus botnets as well, although the charges against him in Georgia do not mention Zeus.
A civil complaint filed by Microsoft and the Financial Services – Information Sharing and Analysis Center last year names Bx1 among a long list of more than 50 defendants allegedly operating separate ZeuS botnets that have infected more than 13 million machines and have been used to steal more than $100 million in the last five years.
The charges in Georgia are limited to Bendelladj’s alleged involvement in SpyEye, however, because one of the servers used to control a SpyEye botnet was based in Atlanta, Georgia. The indictment doesn’t indicate how much Bendelladj made from the scheme, but authorities claim he collected information on accounts at more than 200 banks and financial institutions.
Bendelladj was arrested in January at the Bangkok airport in Thailand en route from Malaysia to Egypt and arrived in the U.S. on Thursday for a Friday arraignment. Thai authorities dubbed him the “happy hacker” because he smiled during a press conference there discussing his arrest. U.S. authorities had been tracking him for three years and had issued a warrant for his arrest.