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FBI smacks down a transatlantic botnet

US officials seize 40 computers, plus bank accounts and servers
Thu Jun 23 2011, 09:55

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS in the US have indicted two Latvians and seized a range of equipment as part of Operation Trident, the country's effort against international cybercrime.

In a statement the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that it along with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) had arrested two individuals from Latvia and seized bank accounts, servers and over 40 computers at various addresses across the globe.

The raids targeted an international crime ring that had caused over $74m in losses to over one million computer users who fell for their scareware scams and bought fake anti-virus software.

"Today's operation targets cybercrime rings that stole millions of dollars from unsuspecting computer users," said US assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer of the DoJ Criminal Division.

"Cyber crime is profitable, and can prey upon American consumers and companies from nearly any corner of the globe. We will continue to be aggressive and innovative in our approach to combating this international threat. At the same time, computer users must be vigilant in educating themselves about cyber security and taking the appropriate steps to prevent dangerous and costly intrusions."

The DoJ said 22 computers and servers were seized in the US and a further 25 were pinched from the Netherlands, Latvia, Germany, France, Lithuania, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Two rings were being operated, one where the fake software was sold for around £80 ($129) to 960,000 users and a second that used 'malvertising' or misleading advertisements and malware warnings to shill its products.

The defendants, Peteris Sahurovs, 22, and Marina Maslobojeva, 23, were arrested yesterday in Rezekne, Latvia on the charges out of the US District of Minnesota and with the aid of the local authorities.

The attacks sound particularly annoying. In the latter case computer code was changed in ads so that visitors to a hotel web site were infected with malware. This malware then caused the system to freeze and coax users into buying software. Failure to buy the software left data and files unavailable, while paying would free it up.

The malware would stay on the system, however, meaning that it could be turned on again and again.

If they are convicted the defendants could get up to 30 years in prison and fines of around £300,000 each. Its likely that any profits they made will be confiscated, too.

This is obviously a good move, and anyone that had fallen victim to the scams, or any others like them will welcome the arrests. The US meanwhile, could see it as another fine reason for installing Orwellian cyber laws and restrictions. These kinds of scams and the antics of Lulzsec and Anonymous will be cited as those laws and plans become more and more real.

"This case shows that strong national and global partners can ensure there is no sanctuary for cyber-crooks," said US attorney Jenny Durkan of the Western District of Washington.

"We will continue to work with the public and the computer industry, to fortify our cyber defenses." µ


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