Authorities believe the recent arrest of a Ukrainian man in Turkey on identity theft charges could lead police to the brains behind the TJX data breach.
The US newspaper, Boston Globe, first reported today that the arrested man, Maksym Yastremskiy, allegedly helped lead the sale of stolen data in the hacking incident, which resulted in the exposure of some 45.7 million customer credit and debit card numbers.
"He was involved in the distribution of information," Greg Crabb, an agent with the US Postal Inspection Service’s global investigations unit, told the Associated Press. "We do have information that suggests other individuals were the masterminds of the hack."
Yastremskiy, 24, was arrested several weeks ago in Kemer, a Turkish resort town. Crabb said Turkish authorities learned that Yastremskiy was heavily involved in the sale of stolen TJX records.
Crabb told the Associated Press that considering Yastremskiy was trafficking more than a million credit numbers, he likely has close ties with the intruders.
Douglas Bem, a postal inspector investigating the case, said that Yastremskiy sold the stolen card numbers in "cybercrime networks" for between £10 and £50, depending on the level of the account.
"This is a signficant development, but I'm not in a position to characterise this as a break [in the case]," he said, adding that an international law enforcement partnership continues to investigate.
This is the first clue that authorities could be closing in on the culprits responsible for engineering the largest reported data heist in US history. Until now, the only major development in the case came when a group of Florida residents was charged with using stolen TJX data to purchase merchandise.
Gartner analyst Avivah Litan has said that law enforcement sources have told her the masterminds are based overseas and have therefore been difficult to apprehend.
Crabb and TJX could not be reached for comment.
Today’s news comes roughly a week after the discount clothing chain, with about 2,500 retail locations, reported that the breach will cost at least £59 million. Some analysts believe that figure will easily rise once lawsuits and fines kick in. Sales figures at the comany, though, remain strong.