The Justice Department and the FBI, along with international law enforcement partners, have announced the indictment of two individuals from Latvia and the seizure of more than 40 computers, servers and bank accounts as part of Operation Trident Tribunal, a coordinated enforcement effort targeting global cyber crime.
The operation targeted international cyber crime rings that caused more than $74 million in total losses to more than one million computer users through the sale of fake security software, also known as scareware.
Police seized 22 computers and servers in the United States that were involved in running a scareware scheme. In addition, 25 computers and servers overseas were taken down as part of the same initiative, including equipment in the Netherlands, Latvia, Germany, France, Lithuania, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The scareware scam used a host of tricks to get consumers to infect their computers with malware. Once the scareware was downloaded, victims were notified their computers were infected with a range of malicious software, and badgered into purchasing the fake antivirus software to resolve the nonexistent problem.
A second international crime ring disrupted by Operation Trident Tribunal used online advertising to spread its scareware products, a tactic known as malvertising. Peteris Sahurovs, 22, and Marina Maslobojeva, 23, were arrested in Latvia and charged on suspicions they created malvertisements that caused users’ computers to “freeze up” and then generate a series of pop-ups in an attempt to trick users into buying bogus antivirus software.
Users’ computers “unfroze” if the users paid the defendants for the fake antivirus software, but the malicious software remained on their computers. Those who failed to purchase the fake antivirus software soon discovered they could not access any information on files on their computers.
“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. “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. The FBI thanks the participating foreign law enforcement agencies for their ongoing partnership and commitment in disrupting this threat.”