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State Department offers $3 million for Russian hacker

In a sign of the growing importance of cybersecurity to businesses and federal officials, the U.S. State Department offered up on Tuesday a massive reward for a Russian hacker already on the FBI's Cyber Most Wanted list.

Through its Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program, State Department officials say they are offering "up to $3 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, a Russian national."

Officials say Bogachev goes by the online aliases "lucky12345" and "slavik."

According to their reward announcement, "Bogachev allegedly acted as an administrator in a scheme that installed malicious software on more than one million computers without authorization. The software, known as 'Zeus' and 'GameOver Zeus,' enabled contributors to the scheme to steal banking information and empty the compromised accounts, resulting in the theft of more than $100 million from U.S. businesses and consumers."

Hackers steal $1 billion from up to 100 banks... 07:03

Last week, Russian security company Kaspersky Lab revealed that a hacking ring has stolen up to $1 billion from banks around the world. It is unclear if the two announcements are directly related.

The hackers involved in the larger heist have been active since at least the end of 2013 and infiltrated more than 100 banks in 30 countries, according to Kaspersky.

After gaining access to banks' computers through phishing schemes and other methods, they lurk for months to learn the banks' systems, taking screen shots and even video of employees using their computers, the company says.

Once the hackers become familiar with the banks' operations, they use that knowledge to steal money without raising suspicions, programming ATMs to dispense money at specific times or setting up fake accounts and transferring money into them, according to Kaspersky.

The hackers seem to limit their theft to about $10 million before moving on to another bank, part of the reason why the fraud was not detected earlier, Kaspersky principal security researcher Vicente Diaz said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Bogachev, meanwhile, is believed to be at large in Russia.

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