US authorities have taken a keen interest in a recently-arrested Ukrainian man after discovering he had ties to the criminal hackers behind the colossal data breach at US retail giant TJX. Responsible for more than 45.6m stolen accounts, the infiltration has understandably landed on the top of investigators' to-do list.
Their new-found interest is in Maksym Yastremskiy, who was arrested several weeks ago for selling stolen credit card numbers in online forums. It turns out a "significant number" of them belonged to customers whose credentials were siphoned out of TJX's rather porous network.
"It's a significant point in the investigation," said Doug Bem, a public information officer for the US Postal Inspection Service, one of a handful of federal agencies probing the TJX breach. "We don't have any information that suggests this person was the one who committed the attack on TJX, but at some point he did come into possession of the (stolen TJX) card accounts."
Bem wouldn't say how many of the stolen credit card numbers in Yastremskiy's possession belonged to TJX customers, but he said there were "a significant number of accounts that could be traced back to the TJX database."
In all, authorities believe Yastremskiy had "hundreds of thousands, perhaps up to a million" stolen accounts in his possession, which were made available to individuals frequenting the bulletin boards, Bem said.
TJX bears the dubious distinction of being a sucker to the largest credit card heist ever. Over a 17-month period, unknown thieves infiltrated the Massachusetts-based company's network, where they brazenly left encrypted messages for each other and may also have lifted card information in real-time as it was being processed over the network.