Estonians, Russian charged in Internet ad scam
Six Estonians and a Russian were charged on Wednesday with infecting computers, including NASA machines, with malware as part of an online advertising scam that reaped at least $14 million.
The online fraud, which took place between 2007 and October 2011, involved redirecting Internet users searching for websites such as iTunes, Netflix and even the US tax collection agency to other sites.
Estonians Vladimir Tsastsin, Timur Gerassimenko, Dmitri Jegorov, Valeri Aleksejev, Konstantin Poltev and Anton Ivanov and Russian Andrey Taame were accused of taking part in a "massive and sophisticated scheme that infected at least four million computers located in over 100 countries."
The indictment unsealed by the US attorney for the Southern District of New York did not say whether the seven were in custody. The US attorney was to release further details about the case at a press conference later Wednesday.
Some 500,000 of the infected computers were in the United States, according to the indictment, and at least 10 belonged to the US space agency NASA.
The indictment said the seven engaged in "click hijacking fraud," which involves directing the user of an infected computer who clicks on a search result to a website different than the one they were looking for.
A search for the website of the US tax collection agency at www.irs.gov would reroute a user, for example, to the website of a tax preparation service, generating a payment to the defendants under an advertising contract.
© 2011 AFP