Police in Quebec today said they have arrested 17 people suspected of building a massive botnet that was being used for identity theft, data theft, spamming, and denial-of-service attacks.
Seven of the suspects have been formally charged with illegally obtaining computer services, hacking computer data, and possession of passwords for the purpose of committing the offenses, according to reports. Further charges were scheduled to be levied later today.
At a Montreal news conference, Frederick Gaudreau, spokesman for the provincial Surete du Quebec police force, said an investigation that began in 2006 culminated Wednesday with 17 raids by SQ officers and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 12 towns throughout the province.
The accused range in age from 17 to 26, and all but one were male, Gaudreau said. Each could face a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted, and all were released from custody after processing.
The arrested individuals are suspected of causing an estimated $45 million in damages to governments, businesses, and individuals. Each of the suspects surreptitiously controlled an average of about 5,000 computers, Gaudreau alleged.
The investigation involved "hundreds" of officers at both the regional and national level, and police have seized dozens of hard drives and other evidence that will now be combed to support the charges, Gaudreau stated.
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