Four Years in Jail for German Computer Hijackers
Two men from Germany who established an online scam estimated to have defrauded internet users of 12 million euros (17 million dollars) were jailed by a German court Wednesday for up to four years.
A trojan-horse software spread between July 2002 and September 2003 infected as many as 100,000 computers, mainly in Germany. The computers were manipulated to use an expensive dial-up service.
Germany's main phone company charged for the service and unwittingly handed over huge commissions which ended up in the pockets of the two men, now aged 31 and 35.
After the scam was exposed, the German phone system had to be re-wired to block similar abuse.
The sentences to 48 and 39 months in jail are not likely to end Germany's biggest-ever internet-crime case, as both prosecution and defence said in the northern city of Osnabrueck that they were not happy with the outcome and might appeal.
Both men were convicted of organized fraud and computer fraud. The software, known as an autodialer, chose one of the most expensive dial-up connections possible in Germany, normally used to serve up online pornography.
The owners innocently thought they were using ordinary connections to surf the internet until the bill arrived and they realised their computers had been hijacked.
The court said the software was carefully designed to remain hidden in a computer.
"It was nefarious," said one judge.
Prosecutors failed to win a court order forcing the head of the firm to repay 7 million euros to the victims.
Earlier this year, suspended jail terms were handed down on two other persons connected with the scam.
© 2006 DPA