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'Happy hacker' arrest: Did police just nab a cyber crime 'botmaster'?

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Mr. Bendelladj only smiled when Thai police alleged he had infiltrated the computer networks of 217 banks – and then stole tens of millions of dollars. The "tools of his trade," police officials claimed during the press conference, lay on a table in front of him: two laptop computers, a satellite phone, external hard drives, and other equipment.

Authorities also allege that Bendelladj's chief tool was a nasty piece of malicious software – a criminal banking trojan program called SpyEye. Used in conjunction with phony Web pages, SpyEye was deposited on the computers of unwary visitors to those websites from December 2009 to September 2011, according to a report in the Nation, a Bangkok news website. After credentials were harvested, Bendelladj could invade a bank account and drain it, authorities allege.

"With just one transaction, he could earn 10 to 20 million dollars," police Lt. Gen. Phanu Kerdlabphol told reporters, as Bendelladj sat, beaming, beside him. "He's been traveling the world flying first-class and living a life of luxury."

Bendelladj, who reportedly earned a computer science degree at a university in Algeria in 2008, has denied that he used the money for personal expenses and travel and said he was not connected to any cybercrime syndicate, the Nation reported.

He also denied Thai officials' claims that he was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. (Indeed, he is not.)

"I'm not in the top 10, maybe just 20th or 50th," Bendelladj said with a laugh. "I am not a terrorist."

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