Cyber Extortionists Arrested in Bloomberg Case

A pair of Kazakh crackers were awaiting extradition to the US today on charges they threatened financial and news impresario Michael Bloomberg with exposing alleged holes in his Web site if he did not provide them "adequate payment." Oleg Zezov, 27, of Almaty, Kazakhstan, and an accomplice, Igor Yarimaka, 37, were arrested by London police at the Hilton Hotel in London on Thursday at the behest of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US District Attorney's office in New York.

Zezov allegedly e-mailed Bloomberg on March 24 from a Hotmail account and indicated that he knew of some holes in the Bloomberg.com news site. Bloomberg then contacted the FBI, which launched a sting operation, according to the complaint, filed in US District Court in New York, where Bloomberg.com's servers are located.

Bloomberg, at the FBI's behest, played along with the threats and agreed to pay $200,000 to Zezov, who signed his e-mail "Alex." In exchange for the payment, Zezov allegedly offered "advice" on how to protect the site by pointing out some of its weaknesses.

According to the report filed by FBI special agent Bridget Lawler, Zezov wrote in e-mail to Bloomberg, "I have all the evidence that Bloomberg system [sic] threatens business of its clients. . . . Using these evidences, I can inform the world on this danger giving the necessary arguments, including our correspondence . . . I am honest and well-intentioned person [sic] as far as you could see. But I can't give up my principles and in any case will get my money for job done." Zezov and Yarimaka were indicted on three counts of threats, extortion and unauthorised computer intrusion by the US District Court in New York.

Although the incident came from Kazakhstan, because Zezov allegedly accessed Bloomberg.com servers in New York, local law applies, said Ken Dort, an attorney at Gordon & Glickson LLC in Chicago.

"The breaking in, if you will, occurred legally where the servers are," he said.

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