The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made two arrests in one of the most widespread cyber scams in history. One of the scams had more than one million victims and incurred over $74 million in losses. The identities of the suspects have not been released. Today law enforcement agencies around the world are continuing to investigate the scams.
More than 40 computers, servers, and bank accounts were seized yesterday in Operation Trident Tribunal (I’m personally feeling slightly let down by that operation title). Twelve countries participated in a crackdown targeting two international cyber crime rings peddling “scareware,” false warnings that targeted victims via pop-ups and fake online ads. In some instances, the scareware rendered computers completely inaccessible.
In the first of the two international rings, the FBI’s Seattle office began looking into a scam that ultimately claimed an estimated 960,000 victims who lost a total of $72 million. Investigators say victims were directed to webpages featuring fake computer scans. Once their computers were infected, victims were notified by pop-ups that their machines had all sorts of viruses and they should buy the antivirus software being advertised— all at a bargain price $129. No arrests have been made in this scam.
The two arrests were made in the second crime ring, first investigated by the FBI’s Minneapolis office. The individuals are suspected of using online advertising to spread “malvertising,” using a phony advertising agency that claimed to represent a hotel chain that wanted online advertising space on a Minneapolis newspaper’s website. After the ad was verified by the paper and posted, the defendants changed the ad’s computer code so that visitors to the site became infected with a malicious software program that launched scareware on their computers. That scheme cost an unreleased number of victims $2 million. The only detail of the arrests made public is that they were made “abroad.”
Countries that contributed to the crackdowns are Ukraine, Latvia, Germany, Netherlands, Cyprus, France, Lithuania, Romania, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.