The FBI has identified a 23-year-old Russian as the man behind what is believed to have at one point been the world’s largest botnet.
Oleg Nikolaenko is suspected of having controlled the Mega-D network of infected computers, which scammers rented in order to send out illicit email adverts.
Mega-D is said to have comprised of more than 500,000 infected computers at its peak, and was capable of sending out approximately ten billion spam emails per day. At one point, Mega-D reportedly accounted for as much as one third of all spam on the Internet.
Nikolaenko allegedly leased control of the botnet to organisations selling counterfeit Rolex watches, herbal remedies and erectile dysfunction drugs.
Mega-D was disabled in late 2009 by IT security company FireEye. Shortly afterwards, authorities arrested and charged Jody Smith and Lance Atkinson, who both said they had paid Nikolaenko hundreds of thousands of dollars to rent use of Mega-D.