FBI Claims Biggest Cybercrime Takedown in History

Thursday, November 10, 2011

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In what is being billed as the biggest cybercrime takedown in history, the FBI working in conjunction with other federal authorities and counterparts from other nations have announced the dismantling of an enormous botnet operation.

The criminal enterprise, dubbed "Operation Ghost Click", infected millions of computers worldwide - including some maintained by NASA - hijacking unsuspecting user's online activity in an effort to bilk advertisers who offer pay-per-click revenue programs.

Authorities arrested six Estonian nationals and are on the hunt for a Russian co-conspirator, as well as raiding two data centers located in the US that hosted the massive botnet's command and control apparatus (C&C).

“The defendants hijacked 4 million computers in a hundred countries, including half a million computers in the United States, rerouting Internet traffic and generating $14 million in illegitimate income," said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk.

The operation infected computers with malware designed to divert internet traffic to designated sites featuring advertisements from which the criminal syndicate was compensated to the tune of some $14 million dollars during the course of the scam.

"The malware secretly altered the settings on infected computers enabling the defendants to digitally hijack Internet searches and re-route computers to certain websites and advertisements, which entitled the defendants to be paid. The defendants subsequently received fees each time these websites or ads were clicked on or viewed by users. The malware also prevented the installation of anti-virus software and operating system updates on infected computers, leaving those computers and their users unable to detect or stop the defendants’ malware, and exposing them to attacks by other viruses," an FBI press release stated.

Worldwide cybercrime operations create a myriad of problems for authorities investigating such syndicates, complicated by jurisdictional restrictions and varying degrees of criminality from country to country.

“The international cyber threat is perhaps the most significant challenge faced by law enforcement and national security agencies today, and this case is just perhaps the tip of the Internet iceberg. It is also an example of the success that can be achieved when international law enforcement works together to root out internet crime. We are committed to continuing our vigilance and efforts—it is essential to our national security, our economic security, and our citizens’ personal security," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The success of law enforcement's efforts to decommission this criminal enterprise is attributed to increased cooperation on an international level.

“These arrests illustrate the level of cooperation needed to confront the growing worldwide threat of cyber crime. We will continue working with our national and international colleagues to help protect governments, U.S. agencies like NASA, businesses, and individual users of the Internet from fraud and theft," NASA Inspector General Paul Martin said.

Source:  http://www.fbi.gov/newyork/press-releases/2011/manhattan-u.s.-attorney-charges-seven-individuals-for-engineering-sophisticated-internet-fraud-scheme-that-infected-millions-of-computers-worldwide-and-manipulated-internet-advertising-business

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