By Frederick Lane
So far, three people have been arrested in connection with "Operation
Bot Roast," an initiative by the FBI and Department of Justice to
disrupt networks of hijacked computers. The most infamous is "Spam King"
Robert Soloway, who was charged with 35 counts of hijacking computers
and using them to send spam messages.
On Wednesday, the FBI and the Department of Justice announced the
preliminary results of "Operation Bot Roast," an ongoing effort to
identify and disrupt networks of hijacked computers know as "botnets."
According to the agencies' joint press statement, the botnets are used
to commit a wide variety of electronic crimes, including identity
theft, denial-of-service attacks, phishing, click fraud, and the mass
distribution of spam and spyware. The FBI and the DOJ have identified
more than a million computer IP addresses associated with these
networks, and said that there might be additional unidentified
"The majority of victims are not even aware that their computer has
been compromised or their personal information exploited," said FBI
Assistant Director for the Cyber Division James Finch. "An attacker
gains control by infecting the computer with a virus or other
malicious code and the computer continues to operate normally."
Soloway, Others Arrested
So far, three people have been arrested and charged with crimes in
connection with "Operation Bot Roast." The most infamous is Robert
Alan Soloway, of Seattle, Washington, the so-called "Spam King," who
was charged a couple of weeks ago with 35 counts of hijacking
computers and using them to send millions of spam messages advertising
his e-mail marketing abilities. He has pleaded not guilty to all
Also charged was James C. Brewer, of Arlington, Texas, who is accused
of infecting thousands of computers, including a large number at two
Chicago hospitals. The hospital computers had to be rebooted
repeatedly, resulting in the delayed delivery of some medical
Lastly, Jason Michael Downey, of Covington, Kentucky, was charged with
causing up to $20,000 in damages during an 11-week spam assault in
"Operation Bot Roast is only about three months old as a national
initiative," said FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko in a phone
interview. "But the cyber division has hundreds of open
investigations; this is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be
additional arrests and legal action in the weeks and months ahead."
The FBI warned that news reports about "Operation Bot Roast" could
generate new phishing schemes. "The FBI will not contact you online
and request your personal information so be wary of fraud schemes that
request this type of information, especially via unsolicited e-mails,"
the agency said.
Instead, people who believe that their computer might be infected are
urged to contact the FBI and to use the online complaint form at the
Internet Crime Complaint Center Web site, www.ic3.gov.
In addition, the FBI is urging computer users to implement good
security habits, including updating antivirus software, installing a
firewall, and using strong passwords. Additional information about
botnets and online crime prevention tips are available on the FBI Web
site at www.fbi.gov.
"If you own a car," Kolko said. "You have to take it in every six
months for an oil change or tune-up. Computers require regular care as
well. You can't just buy it and plug it in. You need to take the time
to get the knowledge you need to protect your computer and prevent
these kinds of attacks from happening."