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Team of international criminals charged with multi-million dollar hacking ring

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WASHINGTON- An international team of alleged criminals, each picked for an expertise in one field, coming together to steal hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.

Federal prosecutors say that while it sounds like the plot from a movie, it is real and the largest computer hacking ring ever is now being prosecuted.

The gang hacked into the computers of Jetblue, 7-Eleven, J.C. Penney’s and the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.

Starting in 2005, they even hacked into Heartland Payment Systems, one of the world’s largest credit card processors.

The group stole names and account information for 160 million credit and debit cards before selling them online for $10 to $50 each.

The cashers, who made fake cards, stole hundreds of millions of dollars at ATMs and stores.

Officials say this is the biggest hacking cases ever prosecuted.

Paul Fishman said, “This type of crime is really the cutting edge of financial fraud.”

One of the cyber thieves even used the web to stay ahead of investigators.

Fishman said, “He has a Google alert on data reach, identity theft, things like that. So when stories pop up, he can see, uh Heartland has announced it’s hacked or Nasdaq has announced it’s hacked. We can’t go there anymore.”

A breakthrough in the case came in 2009.

Albert Gonzalez was busted while the rest of his alleged team kept on hacking and stealing.

On Thursday, charges were filed against four Russians and a Ukranian.

Authorities say two were the hackers, two were the harvesters and one was the salesman.

Catherine Lotrionte, from Georgetown University, said, “The companies have to do a better job protecting their own information, more importantly the information of their customers.”