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Sophos: Busted Botnet, seventeen alleged hackers around the world arrested

February 2008 by Sophos

Up to a million computers in 100 different countries allegedly infected by young hackers. IT security and control firm Sophos has welcomed news that Canadian authorities have apprehended 17 people suspected of running the largest and most damaging hacker network ever discovered in the country.

In a co-ordinated series of dawn raids, the Sûreté du Québec and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, arrested people in twelve different towns, ranging in age from 17 to 26 years old. One of those arrested is a nineteen year old woman.

The gang is believed to have run a zombie network (also known as a botnet) of up to one million computers, spanning 100 countries around the globe. Seven people were charged with illegally obtaining computer services, illegally possessing computer passwords, and hacking. Police confiscated computer equipment during the raids, and information found on the PCs may lead to more charges against other alleged gang members.

"The Canadian authorities should be applauded for investigating organised cybercrime, which is blighting computer users around the world," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Huge amounts of money can be made by hackers running zombie botnets: installing adware, renting out the network to launch blackmailing DDoS attacks against websites, or using them to steal identities or spew out spam campaigns. Running an illegal botnet is a serious crime, and those found guilty must be punished appropriately."

If found guilty, gang members could face up to ten years behind bars, head of the computer crime squad Captain Frédérick Gaudreau told the media. He added that hundreds of officers were involved in the investigation into the gang after complaints were made in the summer of 2006 from business and government computer users.

"All computers need high levels of security to ensure they do not become a part of a criminal botnet," explained Cluley. "Too many PCs are being poorly defended from what is a growing threat."

Last week, Sophos reported that an American teenager had pleaded guilty to running a botnet of computers that included US military computers.

In January Sophos published its annual Security Threat Report, which discussed how financially-motivated cybercriminals use zombie botnets in their pursuit of money.

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