Computer Crime Research Center


Greatest Web-crime sweep

Date: August 31, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Ludmila Goroshko

The Department of Justice announced yesterday that above 150 people had been arrested, charged or convicted in the last three months in a wide-ranging sweep of criminal activity on the Internet.

The cases, including those on credit-card fraud, corporate espionage and other crimes, are part of a so-called "Operation Web Snare". The sweep was carried out by 37 FBI offices, 13 divisions of the Postal Inspection Service and other federal and local agencies. Investigators have identified more than 150,000 victims with losses in excess of $215 million.

"This is a series of cases that is designed to signal that we do not believe the Internet to be off base for law enforcement," Attorney General John Ashcroft told at a news conference here yesterday.

Some cases involved the sending of spam and phishing e-mails. But many of them involved the use of the Internet by companies seeking to gain an advantage on competitors.

In one unusual case, a 31-year-old, Pakistan-based man was arrested after he tried to extort $685,000 from Redmond-based Eddie Bauer. Prosecutors said in February Usman Hayat e-mailed Eddie Bauer saying he had photos of child labor making Eddie Bauer clothing in overseas factories. Hayat said he would post the photos on a Web site if Eddie Bauer didn't pay him the money. Hayat pleaded guilty in federal court last Friday and faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

In another case, the chief executive of a company that resold satellite television systems was indicted on charges of hiring hackers to set up online attacks that interfered with its rivals' Web sites. The executive, Jay Echouafni of the Orbit Communication Corp., has left the country and is being pursued in what the department called "an international manhunt led by the FBI."

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