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Korean web host charged over DDoS extortion scam

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A South Korean webmaster who allegedly maintained a gambling site for local crooks has been arrested over allegations he helped orchestrate denial of service attacks against scores of rival gambling sites that had refused to sign up to his hosting services.

The suspect – named only as Lee, 32 – was arrested along with alleged hacking accomplice – Park, 37 – over a series of denial of service attacks between 21 November and 15 December last year. The attacks were allegedly authorised by local gangsters who handled the business side of the illegal gambling sites hosted by Lee's firm. Four alleged members of an Incheon-based organised crime operation have also been indicted in the case, the Korea Times reports.

Prosecutors reckon an alleged underworld kingpin rented access to 50,000 compromised machines in order to launch the attack. He reportedly supplied Park and Lee with a list of targets using either text message or online chat services.

Park and Lee's alleged crimes also included an attack against an online recruitment firm that had refused to sign up to their hosting services.

Denial of service attacks against gambling websites have happened periodically for several years. The logic is that punters will quickly turn to alternative sites if they can't quickly place their bets. The victimised site loses out on potential revenue. DDoS attacks hit it hard, especially if they are timed to coincide with major sporting events.

Such DDoS extortion scams have fallen out of favour of late, partly because of a run of high-profile prosecutions. There are fewer ways to make money via cybercrime, including click fraud, scareware and spam distribution.

The Korean case illustrates that, even if they become unfashionable, at least in the west, DDoS extortion (and associated protection racket) scams still crop up from time to time elsewhere. ®

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