How was the wedding of the world’s richest hacker & how government failed to catch him?

Footage of a fulsome wedding has risen and, as cybersecurity researchers say, they involve a Russian man named by British and American authorities as the world’s biggest cybercriminal. Russian citizen Maksim Yakubets, 32 years old, identified as responsible for multiple electronic frauds, married Alyona Benderskaya, a businesswoman and daughter of a retired Russian security service officer, in 2017. The wedding would have cost more than £250k.

According to a report by The Sun, the FBI offers up to $5 million USD in reward for information leading to the capture of Ukrainian-born Yakubets, based in Russia for at least the last decade.

Yakubets’ warrant

Multiple images of the event appeared on the Internet recently; however, in all the photos where Yakubets appears, he appears on his back, and his face is never shown, at least not in the leaked images. Another of the images clearly reveals Eduard Bendersky, a controversial former member of the elite unit of the Russian Federal Security Unit and father of the bride.

The luxurious wedding would have costed up to £250k

The images were obtained from the website of the wedding planning company Karamel, describing them as images of the wedding of Alyona and Maksim; although there were attempts to remove the images from the company’s website, it was sufficient to publish them for a short period of time for justice agencies to find them.

The groom’s face is never shown

Police agencies in the United Kingdom and the United States have identified Yakubets as the leader of the dangerous hacking group Evil Corp, and claim that he has been actively collaborating with the Russian Federation Security Service for at least a couple of years. Independent researchers and cybersecurity firms have also identified Yakubets as the intellectual author of a campaign that involves using dangerous malware to steal hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to US authorities, the luxurious wedding, as well as the ostentatious lifestyle of Yakubets (luxury cars and multiple properties, for example) have been funded thanks to his illicit activities. Donald Trump’s administration recently revealed that it offers a reward of up to $5 million USD for information to help capture Yakubets; this is the highest figure that the American authorities have offered for an alleged cybercriminal.

As for the fraud campaign allegedly deployed by Yakubets, cybersecurity experts mention that more than 300 companies in 40 different countries were attacked. Lynne Owens, director of the National Crime Agency (NCA) in Britain, mentions: “Yakubets is responsible for multiple cyberattack campaigns targeting various financial structures, employing dangerous malware variants for more than ten years.” In case of leaving Russia, Yakubets could be arrested, convicted and fined for million-dollar figures.

British authorities estimate that the impact of fraud in the UK reaches hundreds of millions of pounds, as well as pointing to the hacker group Evil Corp as the most important cybersecurity threat to the British government. 

The main obstacle to catching Yakubets is the Russian government, which, while it has been willing to cooperate with Western authorities in combating cybercrime, have always been reluctant to hand over their citizens to stand trial by the justice in the US. However, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian government, mentions: “The fight against cybercrime is an issue on which the Kremlin has always been willing to collaborate. Although our proposals only found reluctance and lack of understanding, we still believe that cyber criminals should be brought before the law.”

Specialists from the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) consider it unlikely that the Russian government will hand over Yakubets, so American and British authorities should think of a different strategy than simply waiting for the Russian cooperation in this case.