Feds Pull the Plug on "Massive" Online Ad Fraud Scheme, Seven Suspects Indicted

Paul Lilly

One Russian and six Estonians have been arrested (or have a warrant for their arrest) and charged with wire fraud and conspiracy in a 27-count indictment for allegedly hacking millions of computer systems in more than 100 countries and participating in a "massive" scheme to reroute Web surfers to rogue servers. By doing so, the seven individuals accumulated millions of dollars in fraudulent online ad revenue, the DoJ said.

According to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the cyber scheme affected half a million individuals, business in the U.S., and government agencies, Bloomberg reports . This went on for four years, during which time an IT company in Estonia raked in at least $14 million by redirecting Web searches on infected computers and by swapping out advertisements on websites.

"The defendants were cyber-bandits who hijacked those computers at will, controlling and masquerading as legitimate Internet websites," Bharara said.

One of the examples in the indictment is that of an American Express ad for the Plum Card that appeared on The Wall Street Journal's homepage. When clicked on, it was immediately replaced by an ad for Fashion Girl LA."

All six Estonians have been rounded up by authorities. The Russian suspect is still in hiding.

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