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Hacking Scheme Leads to Arrests in New York and Pittsburgh

State and federal prosecutors announced charges last month against members of an alleged international criminal conspiracy to use an internet banking Trojan to steal millions from U.S. bank accounts. Nine people in New York and one person in the Pittsburgh area have been arrested so far. Counting state and federal charges, more than 80 people could be charged.

The Trojan involved in this case gains access to computers when unsuspecting victims click on a link or open an attachment in an e-mail message that appeared to be legitimate. Trojans have also been known to use social networking sites such as Facebook to gain access to computers. Once the Trojan is activated, it can log keystrokes on the infected system, allowing hackers to steal bank account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information.

Members of the alleged criminal organization were present in the U.S. and abroad. The organization allegedly recruited students from Russia and former Soviet republics present in the U.S. on student visas to open bank accounts in the U.S. for money laundering purposes.

Authorities are treating this sort of Internet crime as organized crime and are focusing a substantial amount of resources on the problem. Cyrus Vance, Jr., a New York state prosecutor, said "This advanced cybercrime ring is a disturbing example of organized crime in the 21st Century - high tech and widespread."

Considering the large amount of pending charges in this case, it appears authorities are casting a wide net. When authorities attempt to charge all of those involved in a large scam, it is very possible that they may charge and arrest an innocent person or a person who did not understand his or her involvement in the conspiracy. Whenever you believe you may be the target of a criminal investigation, your rights may be best served by consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: Associated Press: Dozens charged in NY in global computer virus scam; Larry Neumeister, 9/30/10.

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