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Dutch authorities clamp down on web criminals

Antony Savvas

Dutch authorities have taken action against a major spammer and a group of identity-theft hackers in two separate cases.

The spammer has been fined 75,000 Euros (£52,000) by Dutch telecoms watchdog Opta, after renting 10 servers containing millions of e-mail addresses from a US company.

The spammer then used the addresses and a network of zombie computers to send out billions of spam e-mails on behalf of a variety of companies.

The spammer is said to have earned around £36,000 in 14 months from the operation. Zombie computers are machines remotely controlled by hackers without their owners’ knowledge.

In a separate incident, two Dutch hackers have received jail sentences after commandeering tens of thousands of home PCs for criminal ends.

The convicted criminals used a zombie network to commit identity theft. Using the W32/Codbot worm (also known as Toxbot), the pair were able to capture keypad presses from millions of innocent users' PCs, using the data to steal personal information such as credit card details. 

They used the information to buy items such iPods, digital cameras and games consoles.

The 20-year-old leader of the gang has been sentenced to two years in prison and his 28-year old accomplice received an 18 month jail term. 

In both cases, the men have already served time in custody equivalent to their sentences and will not have to spend any more time in jail. 

They have also been fined 9,000 and 4,000 Euros respectively by the court in the Dutch town of Breda.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at internet security firm Sophos, said, "The Dutch authorities should be commended for taking a stand against this kind of activity, but many victims may feel that the sentences are not tough enough."

Related article: Korean programmers arrested for massive spam operation

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