Computer Crime Research Center


Cyber blackmailers are nabbed in Russia

Date: July 23, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Dmitri Kramarenko

In a result of joint operation of British The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) and their Russian colleagues main members of Russian criminal group involved in money laundering and blackmailing were arrested, British embassy in Moscow, Russia informed.

9 criminals were arrested under suspicion of blackmailing of hundreds thousands of pounds from the owners of online betting companies during raids in Saint Petersburg, Rostov and Stavropol, the press service of the embassy informed.

The men are believed to have been responsible for mounting computer attacks that have paralysed gambling websites in the UK and cost the betting industry millions of pounds in lost revenues.

The world's other main centres of internet betting - the US-focused Caribbean and Australia - have been hit by similar attacks, which are followed up with e-mail demands for amounts up to $50,000.

The extortion attempts have intensified around the globe over the past nine months and the "Distributed Denial of Service" (DDoS) attacks have increased in ferocity as victims have taken measures to improve their defences.

The criminals' tactic has been to hack into and commandeer armies of computers and order them to fire bogus requests en masse at their targets, bringing them to a halt.

The NHTCU traced the source of the attacks and the e-mail demands to Russia and a 21-year-old part-time student who worked in a computer store was arrested in Saratov on Tuesday.

At the same time, a "technically proficient" 23-year-old was arrested in St Petersburg and a 24-year-old believed to have been involved in a money laundering operation was arrested in a raid in Stavropol. Police were led to him after they made arrests in the Latvian capital, Riga, in November of 10 money-laundering "mules".

The money trail was followed from London to the Caribbean to Latvia and then Russia as the first victim of the attacks in the UK, Hampshire-based, was advised by police to pay the sums demanded.

US, Australian, Canadian, Latvian and Estonian law enforcement and government agencies have also played a part in the investigation.

Detective Chief Superintendent Len Hynds, head of the NHTCU, said: "Thanks to the response of all the parties involved, we have helped to dismantle a determined group of organised criminals.

"The clear message we are sending is that if you attack firms based in the UK, we will find you and stop you."

The police believe other gangs could be operating in eastern Europe but news of the arrests may act as a deterrent.

Online gambling is experiencing large growth. More than $90bn is expected to be bet online globally this year, according to a report to be published next month by Global Betting and Gaming Consultants.

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