US Charges 8 in Online Advertising Fraud Scheme - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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US Charges 8 in Online Advertising Fraud Scheme

The ads were never viewed by human internet users, prosecutors said

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    US Charges 8 in Online Advertising Fraud Scheme
    Mark Lennihan/AP, File
    Richard Donoghue, center, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, enters Brooklyn federal court, Nov. 13, 2018.

    The U.S. Justice Department charged eight people Tuesday in connection with the takedown of two international cybercriminal rings that cost advertisers tens of millions of dollars.

    "As alleged in court filings, the defendants in this case used sophisticated computer programming and infrastructure around the world to exploit the digital advertising industry through fraud," said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue.

    The ads were never viewed by human internet users, prosecutors said.

    "In fact, the defendants faked both the users and the webpages: they programmed computers they controlled to load advertisements on fabricated webpages, via an automated program, in order to fraudulently obtain digital advertising revenue," prosecutors said in an indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn.

    Clerk Pulls Out Machete on Would-Be Robber

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    A would-be robber armed with a knife had a surprise in store when an Alabama store clerk pulled out a machete in defense. The two's brief knife fight was caught on camera before the clerk runs out to damage the robber's car.

    According to police, suspect Seth Holcomb walked up to the counter to make a purchase. He leaves the store and then comes back in as if to make a second purchase. Then, he pulled out a knife at the counter. What he didn't expect was that the clerk would pull out a machete of his own.

    (Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019)

    In one of the schemes, prosecutors said, the defendants accessed more than 1.7 million computers belonging to ordinary individuals and businesses in the U.S. and elsewhere by using a global "botnet," a network of malware-infected computers.

    "Meanwhile, the owners of the infected computers were unaware that this process was running in the background on their computers," prosecutors said.

    Most of the defendants are from Eastern Europe. Three were arrested overseas and are awaiting extradition. Two are from Russia and the other is from Kazakhstan. The others remain at large. Charges include wire fraud, computer intrusions, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

    As part of their efforts, prosecutors said seizure warrants authorized the FBI to take control of 31 internet domains and information from 89 computer servers.

    "The FBI, working with private sector partners, redirected the internet traffic going to the domains (an action known as 'sinkholing') in order to disrupt and dismantle these botnets," prosecutors said.

    Google and Microsoft helped the U.S. and other international law enforcement agencies unravel the digital schemes, prosecutors said.

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    Machelle Hackney of Maricopa, Arizona, is accused of forcing her adopted children to participate in her YouTube channel and abusing them if they did not recall their lines or perform as directed. Hackney's channel had accrued hundreds of millions of views since she joined in 2012.

    (Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019)