FBI and DoJ seize servers in scareware crackdown

The US agencies have arrested two Latvians and seized computers in the US and abroad as part of a crackdown on online malicious software
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

The US Department of Justice and the FBI have led a series of international raids that resulted in the seizure of IT equipment and the arrest of two suspects in Latvia, as part of a crackdown on a multimillion dollar scareware operation .

The arrests, announced by the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the FBI on Wednesday, were part of Operation Trident Tribunal. Police agencies in 11 other countries, including the Metropolitan Police in the UK, "provided invaluable assistance", the DoJ and the FBI said in a statement.

"The operation targeted international cybercrime rings that caused more than $74m [£46.3m] in total losses to more than one million computer users through the sale of fraudulent computer security software known as 'scareware'," the agencies said in a statement.

Scareware is software that pretends to detect malware on computers and urges users to purchase fraudulent antivirus software to remove the non-existent threats. On 18 June Microsoft warned of a similar scam where phishers, posing as security experts, attempted to get users to download malicious software to deal with the supposed 'threats'.

Twenty-two computers and servers were seized across the US, along with 25 computers and servers from the UK, the Netherlands, Latvia, Germany, France, Lithuania and Sweden.

According to the DoJ, around 960,000 users were affected by the scheme.

This case shows that strong national and global partners can ensure there is no sanctuary for cyber-crooks.
– Jenny Durkan, US attorney

The two Latvians were indicted for creating a fraudulent web advertisement that was run on the website of the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper. Once the advert was live, Peteris Sahurovs, 22, and Marina Maslobojeva, 23, tweaked the code so that visitors' computers were infected with scareware. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison.

"This case shows that strong national and global partners can ensure there is no sanctuary for cyber-crooks," Jenny Durkan, US attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in a statement. "We will continue to work with the public and the computer industry to fortify our cyber-defences."

At the time of writing, the Metropolitan Police's Central e-Crime Unit was not able to give further information on the UK seizures.

Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.
Editorial standards