A man suspected of developing and distributing the Spy Eye computer virus to criminals across the world appeared for his arraignment in federal court Friday afternoon in downtown Atlanta.
24-year-old Hamza Bendelladj was apprehended in Thailand in January, after more than a year of evading authorities. The U.S. Attorney's office in Atlanta said Bendelladj is believed to have commanded and controlled the virus from a computer server in north Georgia and therefore faced his arraignment in Atlanta.
According to Paul Royal, a professor in the Georgia Tech Information Security Center, the virus only impacts PCs and not Macintosh operating systems. It can be contracted simply by visiting a trusted site which may have been infected with the virus.
"It makes it easy for the bad guy to defraud people of his or her money," said Royal. "It's basically a piece of malicious software that will take control of the victim's computer. And it is installed without their knowledge."
Once installed, the virus can reconfigure a trusted bank's website to require personal identification information upon login. Once that PIN is given, the person controlling the virus software can use the information to hijack money.
Even though Bendelladj has been apprehended, Royal said the virus is believed to have been sold to hundreds of criminals worldwide and is still in use.
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