Reuters Wed 21 July, 2004 14:58 By Bernhard Warner and Oliver Bullough
LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Hard-pressed police have scored a significant victory in the battle against Internet crime by smashing a Russian extortion racket preying on UK businesses and betting Web sites.
A multi-national investigation culminated with the arrest this week of the suspected ringleaders -- three men aged between 21 and 24, police said on Wednesday.
They were held after raids in St. Petersburg and the Saratov and Stavropol regions over 1,000 km to the south. Further arrests may be pending.
Police said the gang had unleashed digital attacks over the Internet on dozens of occasions.
"These were the main people behind the organisation. They were coordinating it and laundering the money," said a source at the British Embassy in Moscow.
They are accused of threatening to shut businesses down with a massive barrage of data -- known as a denial-of-service attack -- if they did not pay up. The gang often demanded sums of $10,000 or $20,000 (5,400 to 10,800 pounds) from owners of betting Web sites and struck on the eve of big sporting events like the UK's Grand National horse race.
Protection rackets have sprung up over the past few years preying on e-commerce businesses of all sizes.
Investigators around the globe have been building a profile of the culprits -- typically, crooked programmers from Eastern Europe. But until now they have had little luck in tracking them down.
The suspects are thought to be part of a larger group working out of the region. Last November, police arrested 10 members of the group in Riga, Latvia -- a breakthrough which eventually led to this week's swoops, authorities said.
Following a complex trail of wire transfers and e-mail correspondence, police tracked the trio to their home towns. One, a 21-year-old from the Saratov region, was a part-time student who worked in a computer shop.
"Two of the suspects were technically proficient. The third was the money man," said a spokeswoman from Britain's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), a lead agency in the investigation.
The three men could be charged under new Russian computer crime and extortion legislation, officials said. The NHTCU spokeswoman said it was unlikely the UK would seek extradition.
Along with British investigators, Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs computer crimes department, plus law enforcement agencies from Australia, Canada and the United States helped in the investigation.
What I always hated in Cyberpunk is its punk part. I like underground in a way. But cyberpunk's view of society trough underground is boring.
Yes, cyberpunk was mainly a reaction to pompous sci-fi of sixties. But, after losing its glamour, protest culture of sixties is now associated with narcotics and crime. And in post-cyberpunk times, word cyberpunk brings to mind identity thieves, hackers and spammers.
В России ликвидирована группа компьютерных вымогателей, которые накануне спортивных соревнований требовали от владельцев британских букмекерских контор от $10 тыс. до $20 тыс. за то, что их сайты не будут подвергнуты хакерской атаке во время принятия ставок.
Как сообщает источник в британском посольстве, в начале этой недели аресты были проведены в Санкт-Петербурге, Ставрополе и Саратове. Задержаны трое молодых людей в возрасте от 21 до 24 лет. Им уже инкриминирутся несколько десятков преступлений подобного рода.
Среди тех, кто получил электронные письма с угрозами, в частности, называются букмекерские фирмы, обслуживающие Королевские скачки
Дайверы, блин. Воровать - нехорошо.