10 charged in malware case in U.S., Europe

Ten people have been charged in connection with malicious-software attacks that infected tens of thousands of computers and caused more than $100 million in financial losses, U.S. and European authorities announced Thursday.

The malware, which enabled cybercriminals from Eastern Europe to take remote control of infected computers and siphon funds from victims’ bank accounts, targeted companies and institutions across all sectors of American life. Victims included a Washington law firm, a church in Texas, a furniture business in California and a casino in Mississippi.

The defendants come from six nations, and several are awaiting prosecution in Europe. An 11th defendant in a related case was extradited to the United States from Bulgaria in 2016 and pleaded guilty last month in federal court in Pittsburgh, where Thursday’s case was brought.

The charges include conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Although the Justice Department has pursued multiple malware prosecutions in recent years against foreign hackers, this case stands out as a model of international collaboration, said Scott Brady, the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh.

Prosecutors will first bring charges against several of them in the East European countries of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

— Associated Press

New York rejects plan for shale gas pipeline

New York denied a key permit for a $1 billion Williams Cos. shale gas pipeline, dealing a critical blow to a project that would shuttle fuel to customers in New York City and Long Island.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said Wednesday that the pipeline would result in water-quality violations, including those caused by kicking up hazardous metals and disturbing seabed habitats. The denial was “without prejudice,” meaning the company can reapply. Williams said in a separate statement that the DEC had raised “a minor technical issue” with the application, which it will resubmit quickly.

The decision comes as states tussle with the Trump administration over pipelines designed to carry abundant natural gas to the Northeast from shale basins in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

President Trump has taken action to speed up approval of interstate gas conduits, signing an executive order last month that aims to short-circuit state regulators who have held up projects by denying necessary permits amid environmental concerns.

Northeast Supply Enhancement, which would add pipeline segments in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to an existing Williams system, joins a slew of gas proposals in the region that have faced delays.

— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday that Tesla's Autopilot feature was engaged during a fatal March 1 crash of a 2018 Model 3 in Delray Beach, Fla., the latest serious crash reported involving the driver-assistance system. The NTSB's preliminary report said the driver engaged Autopilot about 10 seconds before crashing into a semitrailer and the system did not detect the driver's hands on the wheel for fewer than eight seconds before the crash.

U.S. homebuilding increased more than expected in April, and activity in March was stronger than initially thought, suggesting declining mortgage rates were starting to provide some support to the struggling housing market. Housing starts rose 5.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.235 million units last month, driven by gains in the construction of single- and multifamily housing units, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and Royal Bank of Scotland were fined a combined $1.2 billion by the European Union on Thursday for rigging the multitrillion-dollar foreign-exchange market. Banks have been hit with billions of dollars in penalties worldwide over the past decade for the rigging of benchmarks used in many day-to-day financial transactions, further damaging the industry's fragile reputation after the financial crisis.

— From news service