Police agencies in the United States and around the world have disrupted two computer crime networks that officials say stole more than $100 million from thousands of people. Also, the U.S. government has charged a Russian national with a string of crimes as a mastermind in the computer attacks.
Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole says one scheme was called "Gameover Zeus" and its victims are spread around the world, often including small and medium-sized businesses.
"Gameover Zeus is the most sophisticated and damaging botnet [network of computers that communicate with its creator] we have ever encountered," said Cole.
Gameover Zeus used malicious software to steal a victim's banking password so the criminals could take money out of victim's bank accounts.
A second scheme was called "Cryptolocker." It used a computer virus to encrypt the content of a victim's computer.
That meant users could not get to family photographs, tax records, emails, and other important files.
The cyber crooks demanded ransom, often in the form of hundreds of dollars worth of the cyber currency bitcoin, to unlock the computer. Officials say the scheme infected hundreds of thousands of computers and netted tens of millions of dollars in ransom.
A top Justice Department official, Leslie Caldwell said law enforcement will slow this kind of criminal activity for a short time.
“We fully expect that these schemes will re-emerge and will evolve as the criminals target and infect new victims," said Caldwell.
U. S. Justice Department officials have indicted (formally accused) Russian national Evgeniy Bogachev, who has not been apprehended, on charges of computer hacking, conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering.
The investigation involved private computer companies around the world and authorities in many nations, including Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, and Ukraine.