Ukrainian man arrested for selling data on 300 million people to Russians

A 36-year-old Ukrainian citizen was arrested this week for allegedly selling the personal data of over 300 million people to Russia, the Ukrainian cyber police said in a statement.

The man used the messaging app Telegram to market the stolen information,which included passport data, taxpayer numbers, birth certificates, driver's licenses, and bank account data belonging to citizens of Ukraine and various European countries. He would sell access to the data for anywhere between $500 and $2,000, depending on the amount and type of information desired.

The cyber police said the man sold the data to Russian citizens for rubles — a banned currency in Ukraine.

When the police arrived to search the suspect's house in Netishyn — a town of 36,000 people in western Ukraine — he attempted to resist and injured an officer, the cyber police said .

The officers confiscated several mobile phones and about 30 hard drives from the residence, as well as SIM cards, computer equipment, and server gear. Police said they are also investigating databases with restricted access that were operated by the suspect.

The man faces charges for creating software with malicious intent, unlawfully accessing information stored in computer networks, and using violence against a law enforcement officer.

If found guilty of the latter charge, he could receive a maximum prison sentence of five years. The punishment for the first two offenses under Ukraine's criminal code depends on the severity of the crimes committed.

The arrest highlights how Telegram has emerged as a popular — and flawed — tool for cybercriminals. The app’s lack of moderation and its ability to create large chat groups with up to 200,000 members has made it a favored platform to sell stolen data.

According to research conducted by cybersecurity firm Positive Technologies, there was a significant increase in hacker-related posts on Telegram during the second quarter of 2022. Most of the posts are related to stolen user data, followed by posts on cybercrime services and the distribution of malware.

The firm says they have observed a shift as hackers move from cybercrime forums to messaging platforms.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk is a freelance reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.