U.S. authorities announced what they believed to be the largest hacking and identity theft case ever prosecuted on Monday in a scheme in which more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen.
Three men were indicted on charges of being responsible for five corporate data breaches in a scheme in which the card numbers were stolen from Heartland Payment Systems, 7-Eleven Inc and Hannaford Brothers Co, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
The suspects also hacked two unidentified corporate victims, the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey said in the statement.
Prosecutors allege Albert Gonzalez, 28, of Miami, and two unnamed Russian coconspirators targeted large corporations by scanning the list of Fortune 500 companies and exploring corporate websites before setting out to identify vulnerabilities.
The suspects would seek to sell the data to others who would use it to make fraudulent purchases, the statement said.
In one example, the suspects went to retail locations to identify the type of checkout machines, and after further investigation into the computer systems they uploaded information onto servers that worked as hacking platforms, the statement said.
These servers, located in New Jersey and around the world, were used by the coconspirators to store information critical to the hacking schemes and subsequently to launch the hacking attacks, prosecutors said.
The scheme is believed to constitute the largest hacking and identity theft case ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice, the statement said.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)