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Russian extortion gang faces 15 years

DOS villainy hit UK bookies for millions before net closed

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A Russian cyber extortion gang arrested last week cost British bookmakers tens of millions in lost revenues, according to the head of a Russian police agency.

Three men suspected of masterminding a cyber-extortion racket targeting online bookies were arrested last week in a joint operation between the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and its counterparts in the Russian Federation. The trio, who investigators reckon netted hundreds of thousands of pounds from the shakedowns, were picked up in a series of raids both in St Petersburg, and in the Saratov and Stavropol regions in southwest Russia.

The alleged cyber-extortions took place following Denial of Service (DOS) attacks directed against the websites of many online bookies. These attacks bombarded bookies' servers with a tidal wave of spurious and malicious traffic, effectively shutting down their online operations and costing millions of pounds in lost business. Russia's Interior Ministry said that gang had also launched attacks on unidentified British banks.

At a press conference in Moscow yesterday, Russian officials gave new details about the gangs' alleged activities, but did not name suspects or confirm the identity of their victims. Yevgeny Yakimovich, the chief of the Russian Interior Ministry's Department K, which fights cyber-crimes in Russia, said the attacks cost bookies £40m in lost business. Russian officials declined to name the victims.

Valery Syzrantsev, head of the Interior Ministry's Chief Investigating Department, said the hackers targeted nine online bookies, attacking them each repeatedly and demanding payments of up to $50,000 to stop. "Two companies, which suffered especially big losses, agreed to pay $40,000 (£22,000) each," Syzrantsev said, AP reports.

Of the three men arrested last week, two remain in custody. Russian investigators are hunting down other members of the gang who Syzrantsev characterised as "well-educated people aged 20-21 who had found each on the Internet and agreed to work together in the extortion". Suspects could face up to 15 years imprisonment if convicted of extortion. ®

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