U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday extradited a Romanian man from Colombia to the U.S. over allegations that the man helped distribute the Gozi virus, one of the most destructive financial viruses in computer in recent history. Mihai Ionut Paunescu was extradited to the U.S. under a litany of charges including: conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Paunescu, also known as “Virus,” is being held in New York’s Southern District where his case will continue.
The Gozi virus affected more than one million computer users in at least eight countries from 2007 to 2012. Those affected included private individuals as well as businesses and government entities. The virus allegedly traveled through PDF documents transmitted through a hosting system designed by Paunescu. When opened, the virus steals private information including passwords and banking information. Part of the reason the virus is so harmful is because it is almost undetectable by anti-virus software. As a result, tens of millions of dollars were lost.
Paunescu is from Romania and was arrested there in 2012 on related charges. He posted bail and avoided extradition to the US. However, in June 2021, Paunescu was arrested by Colombian officials for his role in distributing the Gozi virus. In addition to creating the Gozi virus, Paunescu is also accused of distributing malware, transmitting spam and participating in large-scale attacks through hijacked tools. Paunescu appeared in a magisterial court in New York on Tuesday where his case was assigned by U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York will lead the prosecution against Paunescu.