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FBI takes down international fake anti-virus rings

Dubbing it Operation Trident Tribunal, the FBI and Justice Department announced today’s unsealing of an indictment presented in a US District Court in Minneapolis concerning the arrest of two Latvians connected to a cybercriminal scheme that used fake anti-virus software to steal more than $2 million. Also included in the indictment were  seizures of equipment related to  infecting nearly one million computers across the globe with fake anti-virus, scamming vicitims out of a reported $74 million.

Warrants obtained by law enforcement resulted in the seizure of 22 computers and servers in the United States connected with the alleged crime ring, in addition to 25 computers and servers taken in the Netherlands, Latvia, Germany, France, Lithuania, Sweden, and the UK. Also seized were five bank accounts used to launder profits to the ringleaders.

The Justice Department has identified Peteris Sahurvos, 22, and Marina Maslobojeva, 23, as the two arrested in Rezekne, Latvia, via the charges handed down by the US District Court of Minnesota. The two are allegedly the leaders of a separate ‘malvertising’ scheme whereby online advertising was used to distribute the fake anti-virus products.

The ruse was brought to the attention of law enforcement after the duo purchased online ad space with the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s news website. After providing normally functioning ad materials to the paper, the two Latvians allegedly manipulated the code so that visitors to the newspaper’s website would be infected by the fake anti-virus.

The two Latvians could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 if convicted on wire fraud and conspiracy charges; separate charges of computer fraud could bring up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

“Scareware is just another tactic that cyber criminals are using to take money from citizens and businesses around the world”, said assistant director Gordon M. Snow of the FBI’s Cyber Division when commenting on the arrests. “This operation targeted a sophisticated business enterprise that had the capacity to steal millions. Cyber threats are a global problem, and no single country working alone can be effective against these crimes.”

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