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Three Russian hackers convicted of running denial of service attacks against UK bookies have each been sentenced to eight years imprisonment and fined $3,700.

Ivan Maksakov of Balakovo, Alexander Petrov of Astrakhan, and Denis Stepanov of St Petersburg extorted up to $4m from online bookmakers and casinos in the UK alone prior to their capture, Russian press agency RIA Novosti reports.

Prosecutors reckon they made 54 similar attacks across 30 countries during six months of high-profile attacks.

Maksakov and Stepanov were arrested in September 2004 following a joint investigation by the UK's National High Tech Crime Unit, Interpol, the FBI and Russia's Interior Ministry, and the Prosecutor General's Office. Petrov was collared in the middle of the following year. Each was charged with a number of computer hacking and extortion offences under the the Russian Criminal Code and convicted, resulting in unusually harsh sentences (by Russian computer crime standards) that reflect the seriousness of their crimes.

RIA Novosti reports that the modus-operandi of the attack involved planting spyware, designed by 20-year-old Maksakov, onto the systems of targeted firms. This was followed up by demands that, unless the gang was paid off, a denial of service attack would be launched against the websites of gambling firms.

"The web server of Canbet Sports Bookmakers Ltd, which refused to pay a $10,000 ransom demand, was blocked during the Breeders' Cup races, and the company lost more than $200,000 for each day of downtime," public prosecutor Anton Pakhomov explained.

The trio were jailed during a sentencing hearing before a court in the city of Balakovo in the Volga river Saratov region, 530 miles southeast of Moscow, on Tuesday. ®

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