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By Kim Zetter
August 20, 2009
When Turkish police arrested Maksym "Maksik" Yastremskiy - a Ukrainian
wholesaler of stolen identity data - in July 2007, they didn't just
collar one of the most-wanted cybercriminals in the world. They also got
a trove of evidence about Yastremskiy's buyers and suppliers, all locked
in an encrypted vault on his laptop computer.
Now federal prosecutors are hoping to introduce a copy of Yastremskiy's
files in its case against accused hacker Albert "Segvec" Gonzalez. Chat
logs and other information on the disk allegedly show that Gonzalez was
Yastremskiy's major supplier of credit and debit card numbers.
But Gonzalez's attorney is fighting to keep the data, and similar
information seized from a server in Latvia, far away from the New York
court room where Gonzalez is scheduled to stand trial next month on the
first of three federal indictments. The argument unfolding over the
disks illustrates the challenges and controversies of using electronic
evidence gathered in foreign jurisdictions, and sheds more light on the
unusual methods used to investigate what authorities have called the
largest identity theft case in U.S. history.
Gonzalez and his co-conspirators staged high-profile breaches at TJX,
Heartland Payment Systems, Dave & Buster's and other retailers and
One notable revelation in the government's own filings (.pdf) is that
Yastremskiy's arrest did not mark the first time the Secret Service
gained access to his computer files. On June 14, 2006 the Secret Service
worked with local authorities to conduct a "sneak-and-peek" search of
Yastremskiy's laptop while he was traveling through Dubai, in the United
Arab Emirates. The agency secretly obtained a copy of the man=E2=80=99s hard
drive in the search.
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