Teenager allegedly headed international hacking ring, Sophos comments

November 30, 2007 Sophos Press Release

Botnet computers under the remote control of a hacker can be used for the purposes of sending spam and identity theft. Image copyright (c) Sophos
Botnet computers under the remote control of a hacker can be used for the purposes of sending spam and identity theft.

IT security and control firm Sophos has welcomed news that a teenager from New Zealand, believed to be the brains behind an international cyber gang, has been arrested.

The gang was allegedly responsible for infecting more then one million computers, stealing bank and credit card information, and embezzling more than USD 20 million. It is suspected that the teenager, known only by his cyber moniker 'AKILL' was the head of the gang and began his hacking activity while still at school.

According to reports, the arrest, which is part of a international crackdown on cybercrime, came about following a joint operation between the FBI and police authorities in New Zealand and the Netherlands. Possible charges against the teenager could include unauthorised access to computers and possessing computer hacking tools - charges that carry a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. The teenager has been released without charge, but is reported to be helping police further with their investigations.

"Most of the time, today's cybercrime is no longer spotty teenagers simply intent on demonstrating their computing prowess; rather, it is gangs run by sophisticated criminals for financial gain," said Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos. "This case shows a merging of these two profiles. Whoever is responsible, this arrest shows that international cooperation by the authorities can work. Tackling cybercrime and ensuring appropriately severe convictions are handed out to guilty parties sends a strong message to cyber gangs: we will find you and when we do, you will face the consequences."

Zombie computers - are your PCs under someone else's control?

Zombie computers, also known as bots, can be used by criminal hackers to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks, spread spam messages or to steal confidential information.

As spammers become more aggressive, collaborating with virus writers to create armies of zombie computers, legitimate organizations with hijacked computers are being identified as a source of spam. This not only harms the company's reputation, but can also cause the business's email to be blocked by others.

Sophos ZombieAlert™ advises service subscribers when any computer on their network is found to have sent spam to Sophos's extensive global network of spam traps, and provides rapid notification to customers if their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are listed in public Domain Name Server Block Lists (DNSBL). This information helps customers locate, disinfect, and protect these systems from future attacks.

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can control network access and defend against the threats of spam, hackers, spyware and viruses.