October 4, 2006 10:50 AM PDT

Trio sentenced to 8 years in U.K. cyberattack scheme

Three Russian citizens were sentenced Wednesday to eight years each for extorting money from U.K. e-commerce companies.

Ivan Maksakov, Alexander Petrov and Denis Stepanov were accused of receiving $4 million from firms that they threatened with cyberattacks.

The trio concentrated on U.K. Internet gambling sites, according to the prosecution. One bookmaker, which refused to pay a demand for $10,000, was attacked and brought offline--which reportedly cost it more than $200,000 a day in lost business.

Maksakov, Petrov and Stepanov were arrested in 2004 through a joint operation between the U.K. National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) and the Russian authorities.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which has now replaced the NHTCU, confirmed that the three had been jailed and fined 100,000 rubles (about $3,700) each. However, SOCA declined to say whether the convictions would help reduce cybercrime in the U.K. or encourage more firms to come forward about blackmail demands.

Senior police sources have expressed concern that U.K. companies keep quiet when they are hacked or blackmailed, rather than informing the authorities. This can create a climate where malicious hackers are encouraged to launch attacks.

Graeme Wearden and Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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