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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Assistant Director in Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk on Major Cyber Investigation

FBI New York November 09, 2011
  • FBI New York Press Office (212) 384-2100

The indictment, announced today, describes an intricate international conspiracy conceived and carried out by sophisticated criminals.

Working primarily from Estonia and Russia, the defendants effectively hijacked 4 million computers in a hundred countries—including half a million computers in the United States. Those half-million U.S. computers include those used by individuals, as well as computers housed in businesses and government entities such as NASA.

The harm inflicted by the defendants was not merely a matter of reaping illegitimate income. The defendants also inflicted the following:

  • They victimized legitimate website operators and advertisers who missed out on income through click hijacking and ad replacement fraud.
  • Unwitting customers of the defendants’ sham publisher networks were paying for Internet traffic from computer users who had not intended to view or click their ads.
  • Users involuntarily routed to Internet ads may well have harbored discontent with those businesses, even though the businesses were blameless.
  • And then there is the harm to the users of the hijacked computers. The DNSChanger malware was a virus more akin to an antibiotic-resistant bacterium. It had a built-in defense that blocked anti-virus software updates. And it left infected computers vulnerable to other malware.

In his 2005 book, “The World is Flat,” Tom Friedman was writing primarily about the globalization of the legitimate economy in the 21st century. As we have seen today, by identifying subjects in Estonia who caused a server in Manhattan to direct a user in Germany to a website in California—the FBI has proved the world is truly flat.

The Internet is ubiquitous in everyday life because it shrinks the world in so many positive ways: in commerce, in academia, in entertainment, and in communications. But it is a tool, and it can be exploited by those with a little know-how and bad intentions.

In this context, international law enforcement cooperation and strong public-private partnerships are more than discussion topics for symposiums. They are absolute necessities.

Today, with the flip of a switch, the FBI and our partners dismantled the Rove criminal enterprise. Thanks to the collective effort across the U.S. and in Estonia, six leaders of the criminal enterprise have been arrested and numerous servers operated by the criminal organization have been disabled. Additionally, thanks to a coordinated effort of trusted industry partners, a mitigation plan commenced today, beginning with the replacement of rogue DNS servers with clean DNS servers to keep millions online, while providing ISPs the opportunity to coordinate user remediation efforts.

To determine whether you have been a victim and, if so, what corrective steps you should take, the FBI has provided detailed information for you to review on our website, www.fbi.gov. It must be stressed, however, that users who believe their computers may be infected should also contact a computer professional.

Thanks, as always, to Preet Bharara and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York; to Assistant United States Attorneys Sarah Lai, James Pastore, and Alexander J. Wilson; and to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin and his staff.

The efforts of the Estonia Police and Border Guard were, and remain, essential to this investigation.

Thanks also to the Dutch National Police Agency’s National High Tech Crime Unit.

The assistance and cooperation of many entities in the private sector have been invaluable in identifying the source of this far-reaching scheme, and in our mutual ongoing efforts to mitigate it.

The FBI’s investigation is led by Special Agent Milan Patel and his supervisor, Christopher Stangl. They, along with Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Cyber Dan O’Brien and Special Agent in Charge for Special Operations/Cyber Mary Galligan, deserve singling out for their cutting-edge investigating, their tireless determination, and their skillful coordination of this complex matter.

- U.S. Attorney’s press release
- Related FBI story