22 suspected computer hackers arrested in France

May 29, 2008 Sophos Press Release

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have welcomed the news that French authorities have arrested a total of 22 people suspected of running an international hacking gang that broke into business networks in France and overseas.

According to French media reports, the 22 alleged hackers were arrested in Paris, southern and central France following a four month investigation involving over 90 members of the police force.

The arrested members of the alleged gang are said to be all under 25 years of age, with one reported to be only 13 years old. According to media reports, the gang were members of an internet forum of some 200 hackers where they were seen bragging about their "successes".

Police have said that it is not clear at the moment what the motivation for the hacking was, although some data was reportedly destroyed on company networks. If found guilty of destroying data and degrading network performance in affected companies the hackers could face a maximum of five years in jail.

"One of the disturbing facts about this story is that 16 of the 22 people arrested are under 18 years old," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "While the authorities must be applauded for investigating cases like this, we should also question what is going wrong with our education of young people to make them think that computer hacking might be an acceptable way to behave. More has to be done to teach children in school how to use their computer skills responsibly."

According to official statements, 34 businesses in France, Iceland and Russia were allegedly affected by the hacking, but at present only seven firms have registered a formal complaint.

"Companies not only need to be on their guard to defend their systems against cybercriminals and internet hackers, they must also be prepared to report crimes when they occur," explained Cluley. "If individuals and businesses don't come forward and report an offense, the authorities can find it hard to put together a concrete case against the perpetrators."

Sophos recommends all computer users protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can control network access and defend their networks, email and web gateways against the threats of hackers, malware, spyware and spam.