November 3, 2005 3:32 AM PST

Adware maker: We were victims of cybergang

Advertising software maker 180solutions on Wednesday said it was the target of a scheme to extort money by Dutch cybercriminals and is helping in the case against them.

Dutch police in early October arrested three individuals, whose names have not been disclosed. The three are suspected of commandeering about 1.5 million PCs using a Trojan horse. They allegedly used the network of so-called zombie PCs to steal credit card numbers and other personal data, and to blackmail online businesses.

Authorities had not disclosed which online businesses had been targeted in the blackmail schemes. 180solutions on Wednesday came forward and identified itself as one of the victims and said it helped gather evidence against one of the three suspects.

"While these suspects may have been clever and effective in amassing a huge botnet, one of the largest ever seen, they left a significant trail of evidence that we turned over to authorities. We're told that evidence resulted in the continued detention of the suspects," Ken McGraw, chief compliance officer for 180solutions, said in a statement.

180solutions, based in Bellevue, Wash., makes the 180search Assistant and Zango Search Assistant applications that deliver pop-up ads to users as they perform Web searches. The company relies on many third parties for distribution. Those parties get paid for each installation of the software. 180solutions has been busy cleaning up its image as an aggressive adware pusher.

One of the three arrested men was a distributor of 180solutions' software, said Sean Sundwall, a 180solutions spokesman. The suspect got involved with botnets, or networks of hijacked computers, to install the adware, moving 180solutions to stop payments to the individual.

"We shut him off and he asked to be reinstated," Sundwall said. When he was not, the individual threatened with a denial of service attack unless 180solutions paid him an undisclosed sum. "The attack ensued in early August and that is when we involved the FBI," Sundwall said.

In a denial-of-service attack a flood of information requests is sent to a server, bringing the system to its knees and making it difficult to reach. In the attack on 180solutions, a site for the company's distributors was attacked, Sundwall said.

10 comments

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So what...
Adware and Spyware software writers should be taken out into the street and shot like dogs. Who cares if they were blackmailed or were hit with a DDOS? They got what they deserved...
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
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Now that's a reasonable line to take
Now you're talking! Murder is much less offensive than ads are. This is precisely one of those reasonable, balanced opinions that the Internet is so short on. If only we had more intelligent, rational people like you to help the rest of us form our opinions.

That said, I don't think you go quite far enough. Why stop with people who show ads via client-side software? Isn't that excessively narrow and prejudicial? The *way* that you show ads is irrelevant. If somebody shows me an ad on a web page, that's at least as bad as showing me an ad via software.

Hell, let's start shooting everybody who shows ads. And why stop with the Internet? I'm sick and tired of those darned Palmolive ads on TV. And a bit of torture for the network programming executives wouldn't really be out of place, either.
Posted by smithkl42 (2 comments )
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It's about time
Tose stupi adware jerks are finally getting what they deserve. They try so hard to clutter up someone's PC with pop up grabage, now someone finally cluttered up there whole system. Good for them.
Posted by smcgui5 (21 comments )
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C'mon now...
That's pushing it! I agree that adware/spyware is annoying as hell, but it's no where near murder.

I agree with the guy who wants to join in on the DDOS against them. I think it's only fair in the long run. Let them feel the heat of the annoyance they have unleashed... and if their servers get rooted or ddos... I don't feel sorry for them one bit.
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
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To H377 with spyware
it's companies like these that keep the internet from being near perfect. I say whoever's DOS'n them more power to you... I'd consider them white hats.
Posted by AimsAlpha (21 comments )
Link Flag
And the rest of the world...
... is a victim of 180Solutions intrusive software. Let's hang them
right after the cybergang's execution.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
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Can I join the DDOS attack?
I will gladly partake in a DDOS attack on 1800solutions. Then maybe we can go after Gator or GAIN or Claria or whatever their name is this week.

Fact is these botnets are probably running 1800solutions spyware and its the same security holes that 1800solutions exploits to instal itself on peoples machines and refuses to be removed are the same security holes that the bots use.

- rmjb
Posted by rmjb (28 comments )
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You have no idea what you're talking about
Nor do you make any sense. If Winzip was installed through a security hole in your browser, would you blame Winzip, an affiliate getting paid for every new installation they get for Winzip, Microsoft for being responsible for the security hole, the website from which you were infected, the programmer who wrote the code that took advantage of the security hole, or the hosting provider that allowed all of this horrendous activity to funnel through their server? Never mind, I'm guessing you'd just blame the most popular scapegoat. Please continue in your quest for DDOS participation opportunities, they seem to be the cool new thing that everyone is into.
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