FBI cyber-unit stops international hacker gang, it’s about time with all the recent incidents in Corporate America
FBI cyber-unit smashes international hacker gang who stole $14m in online advertising scam by infiltrating 4m computers
Crime ring first uncovered by Nasa’s New York office
Six Estonians arrested in their home country – seventh member of team at large
They had been spreading virus since 2007
By DANIEL MILLER
Last updated at 5:29 PM on 10th November 2011
A gang of internet ‘cyber bandits’ who stole $14 million after hacking into at least 4 million computers in an online advertising scam have been arrested following a joint investigation by the FBI and Nasa.
Estonian-based cyber criminals the Rove Group infected computers in over 100 countries with a software virus that redirected users to online advertising or websites.
The operation was first discovered by workers at space agency Nasa’s New York office who were shocked to find out their computers had been infected.
File picture: The FBI have arrested six members of a cyber criminal ring who netted $14million through a sophisticated online advertising scam
They passed on the information to the FBI who began a two-year investigation – Operation Ghostclick – involving police from around the world to track down the fraudsters.
Yesterday the FBI, working alongside international partners, arrested six Estonians within their home country. A seventh member of the gang, a Russian, is believe to be still at large.
HOW THE SCAM WORKED
Cyber crooks sign deals with legitimate firms who pay a small fee every time a user is directed to an advert or website
DNSchanger virus is spread to thousands of computers worldwide. Designed to resist anti-virus software it sits unnoticed on the owners hard drive
Virus is activated when users go online searching for certain websites including iTunes and Amazon.com
Users are unwittingly redirected towards pages of adverts or sent to the genuine site where the official adverts have been replaced.
Gang receives a tiny sum for every hit – but with millions of computers infected this quickly adds up to a fortune
Janice Fedarcyk, FBI Assistant Director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office said: ‘Today, with the flip of a switch, the FBI and our partners dismantled the Rove criminal enterprise.
‘Thanks to the collective effort across the U.S. and in Estonia, six leaders of the criminal enterprise have been arrested and numerous servers operated by the criminal organization have been disabled.’
The scam was simple but effective; the crooks would first sign deals with perfectly legitimate online advertising companies which gave them a small fee for sending a web user to certain websites and adverts via links.
From 2007 they began spreading the virus or ‘malware’. In the U.S. alone 500,000 computers were infected including those belonging to businesses and government agencies as well as private individuals.
In most cases the malware, which was designed to resist anti-virus security software, sat unnoticed on the user’s hard drive.
Known as a DNSchanger it would be activated when the user went online working in two ways.
Users who searched for major websites such as iTunes or Netflix or IRS would receive a seemingly normal list of links but would be redirected to pages featuring adverts which the crooks would profit from.
The powerful virus was also capable of replacing the adverts on major websites such as Amazon.com with one of their own making.
The US will now seek to extradite the six criminals who have been taken into custody.
The FBI has created a web page which allows users to check if their computer has been infected by the virus. https://forms.fbi.gov/check-to-see-if-your-computer-is-using-rogue-DNS
It’s about time that the FBI sends a message to hackers, that if you play you will pay!
Some groups like LulzSec actually believe they are helping America with their attacks. Where they might actually be doing so, they are going about it the wrong way, the illegal way, there is a profession know as Certified Ethical Hacker; where you can use your hacking skills to benefit corporations and actually make a lot of money in doing so.
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