'Smiling hacker' pleads innocent
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'Smiling hacker' pleads innocent

ATLANTA, Georgia - An Algerian national accused by US prosecutors of promoting big-time cybercrime with powerful hacking software called SpyEye pleaded not guilty to criminal charges.

Algerian Hamza Bendelladj was arrested when he arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport and joked with newsmen. (Bangkok Post photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Hamza Bendelladj, known for years in underground computer forums as Bx1, didn't request bond and will remain in custody, said his attorney, Wilmer Parker. Parker declined to comment on why his client didn't seek release on bond at Saturday's hearing in federal court in Atlanta.

Prosecutors have opposed bond, saying Mr Bendelladj is a flight risk.

Mr Bendelladj was dubbed "the smiling hacker" by Thai newsmen after his arrest at Suvarnabhumi airport. While police used him as a prop to claim credit for arresting one of the most-wanted US fugitives, the Algerian chatted with the news crews and was constantly smiling.

Mr Bendelladj, 24, was accused in a 23-count indictment unsealed May 1 of crimes including computer and bank fraud. Mr Bendelladj is accused of playing a role in selling and supporting SpyEye, which allows hackers to use their own computers to hijack victims' bank accounts.

Mr Bendelladj was extradited from Thailand at the request of US authorities after his arrest at Suvarnabhumi on Jan 5.

Prosecutors allege Mr Bendelladj sold the SpyEye hacking software and designed modules that enhanced its effectiveness. The software can be customised to circumvent the security of banks' websites. Once a computer is infected with SpyEye, hackers can use it to take over online banking sessions and transfer money to accounts they control.

The software also can be programmed to automatically steal passwords to e-commerce sites, and to scrape credit card numbers and expiration dates.

Mr Bendelladj, who is also accused in the indictment of supporting hacking operations by providing servers to control the hijacked computers, is a close associate of SpyEye's creator, a hacker known by the nickname "gribodemon," according to security experts who helped track the group.

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