Latvian admits infecting computers with Gozi

last-page-latvia-slogan-6311A Latvian man admitted to being part of a cunning plan to transmit a computer virus that infected more than a million computers worldwide.

Deniss Calovskis, 30, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Manhattan to conspiring to commit computer intrusion. He told the court he had been hired to write some of the computer code that made theGozi virus so effective.

The plea followed Calovskis’ extradition in February from Latvia, where he was arrested in November 2012 and held for 10 months in jail.

Under a plea agreement, Calovskis, who has been in US custody since his extradition, agreed not to appeal any sentence of two years in prison or less.

The Gozi virus was discovered in 2007. It stole personal bank account information of computer users while remaining virtually undetectable.

When authorities announced charges in 2013, more than a million computers worldwide had been infected, including at least 40,000 in the United States, over 160 of which belonged to NASA.

Prosecutors claimed that the whole thing was hatched up by a Russian called Nikita Kuzmin, and Mihai Ionut Paunescu, a Romanian accused of running a service that enabled its distribution.

Prosecutors said Calovskis, who resided in Riga, Latvia, and went online as “Miami,” helped develop code that increased the virus’ effectiveness by altering the appearance of banks’ websites, tricking victims into divulging their information.

Kuzmin was arrested in 2010, secretly pleaded guilty in May 2011 as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

Pauneschu was arrested in Romania in December 2012. His extradition remains pending, a spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.