Computer Crime Research Center


Internet Extortion Ring Arrested in Russia

Date: October 26, 2004
Source: PC WORLD
By: Andrew Brandt

It was a case more suited to a Raymond Chandler novel than the annals of computer crime, but that's neither here nor there: Computer cops in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and in Russia worked together to arrest several members of an online extortion ring, who had been netting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Internet businesses by threatening to shut them down.

The extortionists, led by a 21-year-old Russian college student named Ivan "eXe" Maksakov, used armies of thousands of hacked personal computers to temporarily shut down online businesses that wouldn't pay the protection money. Some businesses were knocked offline by so-called distributed denial-of-service attacks for as long as a week, costing the companies tens- to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business.

Mickey Richardson, who runs a gambling Web site based in Costa Rica, decided to fight back when the ring's demands rose from $500 to $40,000. He hired Barrett Lyon, a Hollywood, Florida, computer crimes investigator--a latter-day Philip Marlowe, if you will--who set up a sting operation and infiltrated the extortion ring, learning the identities of some of its members in the process.

The Los Angeles Times ran the entire story in this morning's edition (registration required), and it's a real page-turner. Chandler once wrote that "television is just one more facet of that considerable segment of our society that never had any standard but the soft buck." If he were alive today, Chandler would probably have added computers to that list.

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