Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents arrested a Russian national in Stavropol on Sunday for launching a large malware campaign targeting gas stations in southern Russia, informs Russian news outlet Rosbalt.
According to the investigation, Denis Zayev created a malicious program that he sold to dozens of gas station employees to inject in the pumps’ software and cash registers. In some schemes he was also a partner, getting a share of the money from the stolen fuel.
The scam was simple: after the malware was installed on the IT systems, a gas tank would be left empty on purpose so some of the fuel that customers bought would be diverted to the empty tank. Customers would get less fuel than they paid for, while employees resold the fuel collected in the empty tank.
Zayev and his partners stole between 3% and 7% of the fuel for some “hundreds of millions or rubles.” The malicious program was undetectable and they fully covered their tracks by showing fake data and deleting any information about the resale operation.
Zayev’s scheme covered the Russian territories of Stavropol, Adygea, Krasnodar, Kalmykia and a number of regions in North Caucasus, in what sources in law enforcement have named the largest scam of its kind.
FSB agents did not say how they detected the crime, but they confirmed it was almost impossible to identify since the malware corrupted the pumps, cash registers and back-end systems.
“In the past, scammers used special ‘bugs’ for theft at the gas station, then they were replaced by viruses,” said a law enforcement source for Rosbalt.
“However, they could still be found. Zayev also created a unique product. His malicious programs could not be detected either by the specialists of the control service of oil companies, who constantly conduct inspections at the filling stations, or the employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. And we managed to establish all this in an operative way.”