Quebec police busted up an Internet hacking network Wednesday morning, one believed to have cost victims around the world $44.3 million, reports the National Post.
During several action-packed early-morning hours Wednesday, provincial police and RCMP officers dismantled the latest hacking ring by successfully carrying out 17 lightning-fast raids in 12 towns small and large across Quebec, including Montreal.
They collared 17 hacking suspects aged 17 to 26. All are male except for one, a 19-year-old woman .... Police raiding parties also sealed and carted away dozens of hard drives and other computer components from the homes of each of the suspects.
Using Trojan Horse and worm software, the hacking syndicate broke into poorly protected computers and commandeered them for illicit purposes. The "zombie" computers were then used by the hackers to steal identities, to spam, and to direct denial-of-service attacks.
"This is a new form of organized crime," said Captain Frederick Gaudreau, lead investigator for the Surete du Quebec, the province's police force.
Overall, the hacking syndicate violated more than 100,000 computers in 100 countries, but concentrated their efforts within three countries. According to PC World via The Washington Post, "their botnet network ... infect[ed] 39,000 computers in Poland, 28,000 in Brazil, and 26,000 in Mexico."
If convicted, the hackers face a maximum of 10 years in prison for "illegal use of computer services." The Wall Street Journal expresses skepticism that the hackers will receive the maximum penalty and note that:
... the benefits of cyber crime greatly outweigh the risks. One corporate security officer calculates that the chances of convicting a hacker are at best one in 7,000 and could be as low as one in 600,000. And the criminals who are caught often receive punishments that are quizzically light, often measured in months rather than years.