FBI shuts down $72M scareware ring
The FBI has announced that in conjunction with the Department of Justice, it has closed down a scareware ring. In an operation named "Trident Tribunal", 22 computers in the US were seized by the FBI; also seized were computers in other countries and bank accounts in Latvia. The first of two rings that were disrupted specialised in scareware and had deceived an estimated 960,000 users into installing fake antivirus software costing up to $129. The FBI estimates actual losses at $72 million.
A second ring, according to the FBI, used a fake advertising agency to pose as a hotel chain and purchase ad space in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in what they call "malvertising". The ads placed were tested by the Star Tribune, but after they began running on the site the code was changed to fraudulently suggest that the users' systems were infected with a virus and directed them to buy fake anti-virus software. If not purchased, the now resident malware would make data on the computers inaccessible. The FBI says this scam led to losses of at least $2 million.
The FBI says that it worked with the police services in Cyprus, Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, Lithuania, France, Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, Romania and Canada during the investigation. 25 computers involved in the operation of the scam were seized by the investigation's international partners. Two individuals in Latvia have been indicted and face charges on two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of computer fraud.