150+ cuffed in US-led cybercrime crackdown

Operation Web Snare

A three-month crackdown on cybercrime has resulted in the arrest of more than 150 people, the US Department of Justice announced at a Washington press conference yesterday.

The ongoing action - which involves US federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies - has been dubbed Operation Web Snare. The operation is targeting a variety of online economic crimes including "identity theft, fraud, counterfeit software, computer intrusions, and other intellectual property crimes".

According to a DoJ statement, more than 160 investigations have been opened as part of Web Snare. Investigators have identified more than 150,000 victims with estimated losses of more than $215m. Investigators executed more than 140 search and seizure warrants, and prosecutors have initiated 117 criminal complaints.

Examples of those arrested as part of the operation include previously announced cases such as the prosecution of a Romanian cracker and five US accomplices over allegations they conspired to steal more than $10m in computer equipment from Ingram Micro. It also involves newer prosecutions such as the first-ever case involving sophisticated denial of service attacks for commercial advantage. Jay R. Echouafni, chief executive officer of Orbit Communication Corporation, was indicted by a federal grand jury this week on multiple charges of conspiracy and causing damage to protected computers in connection with this alleged DoS attack.

ID theft crimes feature prominently in Operation Web Snare. Attorney General Ashcroft has directed the Justice Department offices to make full use of the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, signed into law by President Bush last month, to impose though prison sentences of convicted ID fraudsters.

The DoJ said Operation Web Snare showed the "extent to which alleged online criminal activity increasingly is not only multi-jurisdictional, but involves the blending of traditional crimes with various forms of computer crime, such as computer intrusion and malicious computer programs".

Operation Web Snare is a follow-up to Operation E-Con and Operation Cyber Sweep, announced in May and November 2003 respectively. E-Con resulted in charges against more than 130 individuals. Cyber Sweep resulted in the execution of more than 90 search and seizure warrants and the arrests or convictions of more than 125 individuals. ®

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