60 Minutes's Russian Cybercriminal Goof

CBS's 60 Minutes apparently used a picture of innocent Finnish kids and called them Russian villains.

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By Alex Kingsbury, Washington Whispers

The 60 Minutes segment on the Conficker Worm that aired Sunday night had all the ingredients of compelling television: a public safety hazard, clever thieves, and suitable villains in a group of Russian teens bent on stealing your identity and your bank account number.

And the doomsday date for the computer virus? April Fools' Day.

But 60 Minutes and its source, the Internet security company SecureWorks, may have played the fool in a case of mistaken identity. Not long after the segment hit the Internet, viewers in Finland pointed out that a picture of the alleged hacking masterminds in the segment looked an awful lot like a group of Finnish teenagers. An expert from SecureWorks who was quoted in the segment reportedly was the source for the photograph. SecureWorks didn't immediately return calls for comment.

The evidence that the photo wasn't of Russians? One of the youths in the picture is apparently wearing a jacket with Finland's coat of arms, writes a Finn who tipped off Whispers to the story. Another youth in the picture is wearing a cap from a Finnish beer company. Indeed, determining the origin of a cyberattack is one of the most difficult parts of a cybercrime investigation, computer experts say.

"The [R]ussian cyber gang was in fact a innocent [F]innish youngster group," wrote one poster on the 60 Minutes comments page. "They have nothing to do with cyber-criminals." Other Finnish blogs picked up on the controversy, and 60 Minutes quickly corrected the online story Tuesday afternoon, removing the video.

"We Finns are having a blast on CBS's expense," our tipster writes, noting that the picture has been widely circulated on the Net. "Lesley Stahl, can you PLEASE do some background work?"

Turns out that the northern nation is quite proud of its tech sector and is more than a little miffed to be lumped in with Russian criminals. "Instead of cyber-criminals [F]innish education system has produced [t]he founders of Nokia, Linux and FSecure," one Finn wrote on the 60 Minutes site.

Since Whispers called to alert 60 Minutes, a correction has appeared on the show's site.