This year is already shaping up as an impressive one for computer crime in America, with cases ranging from massive fraud to sophisticated "hack, pump, and dump" stock scams. Here are highlights of the top cybercrimes for the year's first quarter, drawn from cases at the U.S. Justice Department's Computer Crime Section, the FBI, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
Indian Hackers " Pump and Dump " Scheme: On March 12, federal officials unsealed an indictment charging three individuals from Chennai, India, with conspiracy, securities and wire fraud, and identity theft tied to the hijacking of online brokerage accounts in what authorities call a "hack, pump, and dump" scheme. According to the indictment, last year the defendants, based primarily in Thailand and India, set up online brokerage accounts, hacked into other accounts to buy thinly traded stocks, and once the stock had risen, they sold off their own shares. Among the victims are at least 60 customers and nine brokerage firms in the United States and overseas, with over $2 million in losses.
Accurint Computer Fraud and ID Theft: On March 5, a federal judge sentenced five men for conspiracy to commit computer fraud and identity theft tied to intrusion of the Accurint database. Using Trojan horses, social engineering, and other techniques, the defendants obtained user login IDs and passwords and then made unauthorized entries into the Accurint database, which is widely used by law enforcement. All five men are restricted from using computers and were ordered to pay $105,750.29 in restitution to Lexis/Nexis (Accurint's owner) and the Port Orange Fla., Police Department.
Cisco Defrauded of Millions of Dollars: On February 27, Michael A. Daly of Danvers, Mass., was charged with using false identities and private mailboxes in at least 39 states to allegedly defraud Cisco Systems of networking equipment. Daly stands accused of carrying out the fraud at least 700 times, asking for replacement parts, selling them for a profit, and spending the money on, among other things, classic automobiles.
Virus Transmitter Nabbed by FBI: In February, Richard C. Honour of Kenmore, Wash., pleaded guilty to releasing malicious computer viruses that infected DarkMyst and other Internet Relay Chat systems. Until the FBI showed up at his door, Honour got his kicks by inviting fellow IRC users to click on a movie link, which downloaded malware and created backdoor access to their computers.
Theft of Morgan Stanley Hedge Fund Secrets: On February 1, federal prosecutors announced the guilty plea of Ira Chilowitz to charges tied to the theft from his ex-employer, Morgan Stanley, of hedge fund trade secrets. Chilowitz oversaw secure computer connections between Morgan Stanley and its Prime Brokerage clients, and had access to numerous internal documents, including a list of all of the firm's hedge fund clients and the formulas used to calculate rates they paid for certain services. He pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy, transportation of stolen property, theft of trade secrets, and unauthorized computer access.
Child Pornography Cases: The feds continued to rack up arrest after arrest of online traffickers in child pornography, working through Operation Predator (run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the Innocent Images Initiative (run by the FBI). Among the latest perps: Billy Joe Bowser, 34, and Anthony Adams, 49, of Springfield, Ill. Between them the two men had more than 100,000 images of child porn that included kids under 2 years old, trading them on a chat room called "Kiddypics & Kiddyvids" using WinMX software for "peer-to-peer" file sharing. On March 5, Bowser received the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; Adams got 19 years.