‘Citadel’ Malware Co-Author Sentenced in U.S. Court

By: Zack Duvall


Mark Vartanyan, the Moscow native federal prosecutors said helped to develop and maintain the ‘Citadel’ malware program, was sentenced to 5-years in prison on Wednesday in Atlanta.

Vartanyan, who also went by the nickname “Kolypto”, was said by authorities to be a vital part of the development team that maintained the malware program that infected over 11 million computers and caused more than $500 million in financial losses worldwide.

“He was, for lack of a better term, the ‘mechanic’, the person who made it more pernicious.”  The lead prosecutor, Steve Grimberg, said during the sentencing hearing.

The program, that was written in Russian code and marketed on invite-only Russian forums, was designed to steal financial information, specifically account information and personal login information, from major banking and government institutions and entities.

Federal prosecutors offered Vartanyan a plea deal, that he accepted, which allowed for the two-years he spent in a Norwegian prison, after his 2014 arrest there on fraud charges, to be used as ‘time served’ credit towards any prison time he faced, bringing his U.S. prison term to five years.

Prosecutors assigned to the case had noted that Vartanyan was immediately “cooperative  and remorseful” after his arrest on charges linked to his role with the program. They also cited his willingness  to assist authorities with the remainder of their investigation into the authors of the program, and their location as reasons why a “light” sentence was justified in the case.

“I have rarely come across an individual who has been as sorry for his role as Mark Vartanyan.” Grimberg said before the sentence was handed down by U.S. District Mark Cohen.

U.S. Judge Cohen, when handing down the sentence, noted the support of a lenient sentence from prosecutors and the assistance that Vartanyan gave to authorities after his arrest.

“Sometimes getting into trouble can open your eyes to a lot of different stuff, and I think it has done that for Mr. Vartanyan. You made a great start where you are right now in terms of your future life, and I hope that continues outside of prison.” Cohen said when announcing his decision.

Per the plea deal, no appeal can be filed and Vartanyan is expected to begin his sentence immediately in a Federal prison in Georgia.



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