- ‘Pocket drones’: U.S. Army developing tiny surveillance tools for the next big war
- Belgian cafe posts sign: Dogs allowed, but Jews stay out
- Gen. Dempsey: Pentagon studying Russian readiness plans not viewed ‘for 20 years’
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is ‘torture’
- House GOP ready to move border bill
- Bomb squad called after live WWII artillery washes on Cape Cod beach
- HAYDEN: Intelligence, evidence and the case against Russia
- Ohio university quiz implies atheists are naturally smarter than Christians
- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: ‘Playing defense on the one-yard line’
- Activists vow to occupy fast-food restaurants to get higher pay
Feds charge 7 in Internet ad-fraud case
Question of the Day
NEW YORK (AP) - A crew of Internet bandits devised an international scheme to hijack more than 4 million computers worldwide, manipulating traffic on Netflix, the Internal Revenue Service and other popular websites to generate at least $14 million in fraudulent advertising revenue, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
About 500,000 computers in the United States were infected with malware, including those used by ordinary users, educational institutions, nonprofits and government agencies like NASA, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a Manhattan news conference.
Bharara called the case "the first of its kind" because the suspects set up their own "rogue servers" to secretly reroute Internet traffic to sites where they had a cut of the advertising revenue.
Six of the seven people named in the indictment were Estonians who were in custody in that country, and extradition was being sought, prosecutors said; one Russian remained at large. As part of the takedown, the FBI disabled the rogue servers without interrupting Internet service, authorities said.
The problem was first discovered at NASA, where 130 computers were infected. Investigators followed a digital trail to Eastern Europe, where the defendants operated "companies that masqueraded as legitimate participants in the Internet advertising industry," according to an indictment unsealed on Wednesday.
The defendants "engaged in a massive and sophisticated scheme that infected at least 4 million computers located in over 100 countries with malicious software or malware," the indictment said. "Without the computer users' knowledge or permission, the malware digitally hijacked the infected computers to facilitate the fraud."
Once their computers were infected, people seeking to visit Netflix, the IRS, ESPN, Amazon and other legitimate sites were redirected to sites where the defendants collected income for each click on an ad, authorities said. The malware and corrupted servers also allowed the defendants to substitute legitimate ads on other websites with replacement ads that earned them more illicit income, they added.
"On a massive scale, the defendants gave new meaning to the term `false advertising,'" Bharara said.
The indictment estimated the defendants "reaped least $14 million in ill-gotten gains" over a five-year period.
TWT Video Picks
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Russia shipping sophisticated weapons systems to Ukraine separatists
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is 'torture'
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- EDITORIAL: Detroit's water 'spigot bigots'
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame ready for different route to title
- Ted Nugent loses second casino gig for 'racist remarks'
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- White House readies for House GOP impeachment push: 'Foolish' to ignore
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq