The Federal Bureau of Investigation seized over 40 computers and arrested two individuals to break up two separate scareware cyber-crime outfits.
Federal law enforcement
agents have arrested members of two cyber-crime gangs who may have netted more than $74
million by infecting user computers with scareware and then charging for fake
In an endeavor dubbed
Operation Trident Tribunal, federal agents seized more than 40 computers,
servers and bank accounts in the Netherlands, Latvia, Germany, France,
Lithuania, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the Federal
Bureau of Investigation
said June 22. Of the computers seized, 22 were in
the United States.
One cyber-crime gang
infected over 960,000 computers using Web pages that performed fake online computer
scans, costing users $72 million, according to the FBI. About 1 million people
are thought to have been victimized, the FBI estimated. A second group is
accused of netting $2 million through malicious advertisements online.
Malvertisements are designed to push malicious products through legitimate
targets cyber-crime rings that stole millions of dollars from unsuspecting
computer users," said assistant attorney general Lanny A. Breuer of the
FBI's Criminal Division.
The two rings infected hundreds
of thousands of computers with scareware
using a variety of tricks, and then badgered users into forking
over money for fake
to supposedly clean up the infection. The fake software
ranged from $49.95 to $129 apiece, according to federal agents.
While purchasing the fake
antivirus does make the scareware stop displaying the warnings, handing over a
credit card number to these scams can lead to a whole new set of problems.
"Scareware is just
another tactic that cyber-criminals are using to take money from citizens and
businesses around the world," said assistant director Gordon Snow of the
FBI's Cyber Division.
Two suspects were arrested
in Rezekne, Latvia, in connection with the malvertisement scam and have been
charged with two counts of wire fraud and one of conspiracy to commit wire
fraud and computer fraud. They face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to
$250,000 on wire fraud and conspiracy charges, and up to 10 years and fines of
$250,000 on computer fraud.
The duo, Peteris Sahurovs
and Marina Maslobojeva, were arrested on charges made in a Minnesota court that
they created phony advertising agency RevolTech Marketing to place
advertisements for Best Western hotels on the Minneapolis Star Tribune's
Website in February 2010. The paper's IT
staff tested the online ad and found no problems with it. When the ad was
running on the site, the suspects allegedly changed the code so that visitors
were infected with a malicious software program that launched scareware on
"Visitors to the
Startribune.com website began experiencing slow system performance, unwanted
pop-ups and total system failure," the Department of Justice said in the
indictment. The pop-ups advertised fake security software, Antivirus Soft, for
$49.95. The Star
immediately took action and removed the ad from its site.
Federal officials raided a
DigitalOne data center in Reston, Va., June 21 as part of this operation,
InfoWorld reported. The FBI seized three racks of servers from the hosting
facility, causing several Websites and services, including Curbed, Eater,
Instapaper and Pinboard, to go offline.
"The global reach of the
Internet makes every computer user in the world a potential victim of cyber-crime,"
said U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones of the District of Minnesota. The FBI worked
with police in Cyprus, Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, France and Romania as well as
with Canada's Mounted Police and London's Met Police.