Latvian Man Sentenced for Hacking Scheme That Targeted Star Tribune Website

In this, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, file photo illustration, a person types on a laptop, in Miami. Photo: AP/Wilfredo Lee
In this, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, file photo illustration, a person types on a laptop, in Miami.

September 12, 2018 03:59 PM

The United States Attorney's Office in Minnesota has announced a Latvian man who pleaded guilty to participating in a hacking scheme that targeted visitors to the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website has been sentenced to 33 months in prison.

A release said Peteris Sahurovs, 29, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He will be removed from the U.S. to Latvia when his prison sentence concludes. He was arrested in Latvia in 2011, but fled after being released by a Latvian court. He was then located in Poland and extradited to the U.S. in June of last year.

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The release states Sahurovs admitted to registering domain names, providing bullet-proof hosting services and giving technical support to a "scareware" scheme that targeted visitors to the newspaper's website.

According to the release, on Feb. 19, 2010, the Star Tribune website began hosting an online advertisement that appeared to be for Best Western Hotels. But the advertisement began causing computers of visitors to be infected with malware. That malware caused visitors to experience slow system performance, unwanted pop-ups and system failure.

Those visitors also received a fake "Windows Security Alert" pop-up informing them their computer had been infected with a virus, as well as another pop-up saying they needed to purchase the "Antivirus Soft" computer program to fix their issues. The program cost $49.95.

However, the release said, the program merely ceased the malware the ad had caused, while those who did not purchase it were inundated with so many pop-ups containing fraudulent "security alerts" that "all information, data and files on their computers were rendered inaccessible."

The release states the conspiracy defrauded victims out of substantial amounts of money. And that Sahurovs admitted he made between $150,000 to $250,000 as a result of his participation.

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Frank Rajkowski

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