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Hacker gang suspected over Virgin bust, others

Scotland Yard links 12 incidents, one man questioned

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Last week's Virgin hackers are believed to be part of a British gang trying to blackmail Visa for £10 million. The group is thought to have broken into the computer systems of at least 12 multinationals and stolen files. Scotland Yard is investigating the attacks, which last month culminated in Visa receiving a ransom demand understood to be asking for £10 million. "We were hacked into in mid-July last year," a Visa representative told The Sunday Times. "They gained access to some corporate material and we informed both Scotland Yard and the FBI." "We received a phone call and an email to an office in England demanding money." Last month, Scotland Yard's hacker search led them to a remote fishing village in Scotland. Officers from the computer crime unit flew to Hopeman and grabbed kit from the home of a 20-year-old computer worker. The man behind this furore, James Grant, was interviewed by both detectives and Visa security experts. But Grant was keeping shtum, even after the Sunday newspaper tracked down his mother, Rhona. "He is saying nothing at all," she said. "This is a situation that will not change in the future." Grant, who works for Elgin-based Data Converters, is understood to agreed with Visa not to discuss the matter. Meanwhile, detectives believe they have linked over 12 hacking incidents in major companies to the one group, including the email incident at Virgin last week. They have also not ruled out the possibility that the group is on the payroll of infiltration brokers who trade company secrets. "They are professionals and there is some evidence that suggests some of the activity was contracted and paid for," said one investigator. ® Related stories: Hacker penetrates Virgin Credit card Y2K bug could hit UK Popular online billing software hacked

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