Spammers charged over 'largest' email breach

Spam in email inbox Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tens of millions of junk messages were sent to the stolen email addresses, said the DoJ

Three men have been charged by US authorities for their alleged involvement with a huge email breach.

Two Vietnamese men are alleged to have hacked into email providers in the US and stolen one billion addresses.

It is believed the two then profited by sending junk mail or spam to tens of millions of the stolen addresses.

A third man also charged is alleged to have helped the hackers launder the money made from the large-scale spamming scheme.

According to allegations in a US Department of Justice statement, Viet Quoc Nguyen and Giang Hoang Vu hacked into eight separate email providers in the US between 2009 and 2012. The DoJ said they used this access to steal more than one billion email addresses in what it said was the "largest" data breach in US history.

The DoJ also alleges that the pair used their access to the internal systems of the email providers to help them despatch junk messages to tens of millions of people. The trade earned them millions of dollars from spam and from websites that paid to have traffic directed to them via junk mail, said the DoJ.

Some of the spam sent sought to make people pay for software they could get free elsewhere.

Vu was extradited to the US from Holland in 2014 and has pleaded guilty to committing computer fraud. He is due to be sentenced next month. Nguyen remains a fugitive, said the DoJ.

Also charged is Canadian David-Manuel Santos Da Silva who, the US alleges, helped Vu and Nguyen generate cash from their stolen email addresses and by laundering the money they made. Da Silva was arrested in Florida last month and is due to be arraigned before a judge this week.

"Large scale and sophisticated international cyber hacking rings are becoming more problematic for the law enforcement community that is faced with the challenges of identifying them and laying hands on them," said FBI agent J Britt Johnson who led the agency's investigation into the breach.