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Attackers get 8 years for extorting $4 million
Published: 2006-10-04

Russian courts sentenced on Tuesday three members of an Internet gang to serve 8 years in prison after finding them guilty of extorting nearly $4 million from U.K. e-commerce firms, according to reports in the Russian media.

The men were identified as Ivan Maksakov, Alexander Petrov, and Denis Stepanov by the Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti). The three Russian nationals targeted online casinos and bookmakers worldwide using spyware created by Maksakov, the article stated. The group would then assault the company with a denial-of-service (DoS) attack and promised to continue the attack unless the company paid a ransom.

"DoS attacks were the scourge of the Internet between 2002 and 2004," antivirus firm Kaspersky said in a statement posted to the Viruslist blog. "However, we’ve noticed a real drop in the number of attacks, and it could be said that this type of cybercrime is already pretty much extinct. The zombie networks used to conduct this type of attack haven't gone away. It’s just that cybercriminals have found more profitable and less risky ways to use these networks: sending spam, spreading adware, and stealing users' personal data."

Gambling sites have always been a favored target of extortion attacks. And while the use of DoS attacks to extort money from companies may be decreasing, attackers are experimenting with other ways to blackmail companies, such as computer viruses that encrypt a victim's data. In May, a spammers used a massive denial-of-service attack to force security startup Blue Security to abandon its plans for an aggressive anti-spam solution.

The sentence handed out by the Russian courts is not he longest prison time for an online blackmailer. In 2004, a Dutch court sentenced one convicted criminal to nearly 10 years.

The recent Russian group received more than $4 million from companies in the United Kingdom, prosecutors said. The arrests were made possible through the cooperation of law enforcement groups worldwide, including Britain's National High Tech Crime Unit, Interpol, the FBI and Russia's Interior Ministry, the RIA Novosti article stated.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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