Owner of stolen data marketplace Cardplanet pleads guilty

The trading post was a hotbed of stolen US credit card information.

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A Russian national who operated a marketplace dedicated to the sale of stolen payment card data has pleaded guilty to charges brought forward by US prosecutors. 

Aleksei Burkov has admitted to charges of access device fraud and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, identity theft, wire and access device fraud, and money laundering before US District Judge T.S. Ellis, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said on Thursday

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The 29-year-old was the operator of Cardplanet, a website that facilitated the sale of payment card data -- including debit and credit cards -- primarily stolen from compromised computers. 

If these data dumps contain enough key details, it is possible for buyers to create clone cards that can be used to make fraudulent purchases. US prosecutors say that the majority of the stolen information related to US citizens and over $20 million was pillaged from victim accounts due to the information traded on Cardplanet. 

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Cardplanet is not the only website that Burkov had a hand in. The DoJ says he was also the operator of an invitation-only service where "elite" cybercriminals were allowed to sell more valuable 'products' including personal identifying information (PII), hacking tools, and money laundering services.  

"To obtain membership in Burkov's cybercrime forum, prospective members needed three existing members to "vouch" for their good reputation among cybercriminals and to provide a sum of money, normally $5,000, as insurance," prosecutors say. "These measures were designed to keep law enforcement from accessing Burkov's cybercrime forum and to ensure that members of the forum honored any deals made while conducting business on the forum."

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Burkov was arrested at Ben-Gurion airport, Israel, in December 2015. It was two years before an extradition request was granted by the Israeli courts, leading to two further years of appeals against the extradition order that were heard in both the Israeli Supreme Court and the Israeli High Court. 

Eventually, US prosecutors had their way and Burkov was sent from Israel to the US on November 11, 2019.  

Sentencing is scheduled for May 8, 2020.

Correction 11.13 GMT: The marketplace was originally reported as being hosted on the dark web, whereas it was possible to access on the clear web.

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