Spanish Police Arrest Hacker Trio, 13M PCs Infected

Dennis Faas's picture

Spanish police have arrested three individuals for what is believed to be one of the biggest computer crimes in history.

At a news conference delivered this past Wednesday, police revealed that malicious programs created by the accused were used to steal bank details from computers all over the world, and that these programs had the potential to cripple the computer systems of an entire country.

The accused men are said to be between the ages of 25 and 31, each from a small town in Spain.

13 Million Infected PCs in Control

Their transition into hacking came after the acquisition of a virus program on the black market. The three men assumed control of victim's computers in order to create a botnet: a large network of infected computers, capable of delivering viruses to other PCs, or recording keystrokes and login credentials.

Thankfully, none of the three individuals were expert hackers.

Said Juan Salon, the head of the cybercrime unit of Spain's Civil Guard Police, "Fortunately, the botnet of 13 million computers was controlled by someone who hadn't realized how powerful it was." (Source:

The criminals were able to infect machines by using an exploit vulnerability in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. At the time of his arrest, the individual considered to be the "leader" of the trio was caught in possession of personal details of over 800,000 people.

Spanish Botnet Called "Mariposa"

Back in 2007, Estonia had accused Russia of involvement in the attack. This virus targeted many major Estonian institutions, putting them out of action for some time. (Source:

The Spanish botnet (known as Mariposa, Spanish for 'butterfly') could easily have been used as the sole weapon in a cyber-war against a similar country, virtually crippling their infrastructure.

The Spanish trio had a simplistic, yet profitable, scheme for their virus program: offer it to criminal gangs for hire. This tactic led to moderate financial gains, though nowhere near what could have been collected if the botnet had been put to use by expert hackers.

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