31 August 2004 The US Department of Justice arrested 103 suspects charged with computer crimes as part of a three-month long operation.
US Attorney General John Ashcroft said the arrests and operation underlined his department’s commitment to tackle computer crime.
Recent anti-spam legislation had been criticised as inadequate, prompting some to question law-enforcers’ commitment to tackling computer crime.
“Operation Web Snare shows that America’s justice community is seeking to anticipate, outthink, and adapt to new trends in Internet crime,” Ashcroft said. “This is a series of cases that is designed to signal that we do not believe the Internet to be off-base for law enforcement.”
‘Operation Web Snare’ saw 103 arrests and 53 convictions of spammers, fraudsters and hackers.
Federal law enforcement officials cooperated with companies doing business over the Internet to investigate over 350 suspects. Over 150,000 victims were identified, their losses totalling more than $215 million.
One suspect was charged with hiring hackers to initiate denial of service attacks on his business rivals’ websites, costing it an estimated $2 million in lost custom.
Law enforcement tactics included keeping a database of known spammers, trapping them with online decoys and purchasing ‘spamvertised’ products in order to trace their financial records.
The CAN-SPAM Act, passed on 1 January 2004, has been much criticised for its failure to stem the tide of unsolicited email swamping the Internet. Many of the cases publicised in this announcement have already been reported in the media but the Department Of Justice hopes that a ‘sweep’ of arrests will act as a more effective deterrent.
Estimates suggest that just 1% of spam adheres to the CAN-SPAM act, and a recent survey by the Consumers Union in New York found that 47% of email users were receiving more junk email than before the law came into effect. The USA tops the league tables of spam producing countries, generating over half of all unsolicited email.