March 4, 2010

Three Men Arrested For Cyber Mischief

Police said that Spanish criminals that stole bank details from computers around the globe did not realize the power of the illegal network they had created, which could have paralyzed an entire country's computer system.

Police said in a news conference on Wednesday that they arrested three people they believed to have been involved in one of the biggest computer crimes ever detected.

The men were from small Spanish towns and between the ages 25 and 31.  They are suspected of infecting over 13 million computers with a virus known as "Mariposa".

Police said they believe the men were not expert hackers and bought their virus program on the black market before using it to take over other people's computers to create a "botnet."

"Fortunately this botnet of 13 million computers was controlled by someone who hadn't realized how powerful it was," Juan Salon, the head of the cybercrime unit of Spain's Civil Guard Police, told a news conference.

Authorities said the network would have had much more computing power than the one used in a notorious "cyber attack" on Estonia.  The police said that it could have been used for a similar assault on a nation's vital computer infrastructure.

Estonia accused Russia of being behind the 2007 attack.

"Thank God, their criminal mentality wasn't very sophisticated," said Salon, who said the men apparently tried to offer their botnet to criminal gangs for hire, but do not seem to have made huge profits although they made a comfortable living.

The criminals used the virus to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser.  The botnet recorded keystrokes and login credentials.

The Civil Guard said that the leader of the gang was caught with personal details of 800,000 people.  It also said that government institutions and companies had also been affected.