Six Estonians operated a huge Internet-fraud operation that stretched from the shores of the Baltic Sea to a hundred or more countries, including the United States, and affected millions of computers, the FBI announced Wednesday.
“The thieves were able to manipulate Internet advertising to generate at least $14 million in illicit fees,” the FBI said. “In some cases, the malware had the additional effect of preventing users’ anti-virus software and operating systems from updating, thereby exposing infected machines to even more malicious software.”
Janice Fedarcyk, assistant FBI Director in charge of the New York City office, said the illicit operation was taken down after a two-year investigation marked by cooperation between the authorities in the United States and Estonia. The six Estonians, who were arrested on Tuesday, are expected to be extradited to the U.S.
One agent who worked on the case said, “They were organized and operating as a traditional business but profiting illegally as the result of the malware,” according to a report by Danny Fenster on Allan Lengel’s Tickle the Wire blog. “There was a level of complexity here that we haven’t seen before.”