Three suspected hackers arrested in UK, US

Two men were arrested in England and one in the U.S. Thursday on suspicion of being part of a hacking group that created a relatively unknown Internet worm, officials said.

The two English men, a 19-year-old electrician and a 21-year-old unemployed man, were arrested after two addresses in Durham County, England, were searched Thursday morning. Evidence relating to computer and drugs offenses was found and computers were seized, the U.K.'s National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) said in a statement Thursday.

A 17-year-old in Champaign, Illinois, was also arrested by authorities and additional evidence was seized, a spokeswoman for the NHTCU said Friday.

The two U.K. suspects were released on bail Thursday night. They have not been charged with any crime, but the evidence is being investigated and charges could be filed against the men at a later stage, the NHTCU spokeswoman said.

Authorities say the two U.K. men are part of an international hacking group called "THr34t-Krew." This group unleashed an Internet worm known as the "TK worm" that infected about 18,000 computers around the world and caused £5.5 million (US$9 million) in damages, according to the NHTCU.

The TK worm exploits a vulnerability that is found on some Microsoft Corp. IIS (Internet Information Server) Web servers, antivirus software vendor Sophos PLC in Oxford, England, said in a statement. A patch to fix that bug was issued in May 2001, Sophos said. Infected systems were under the control of the hacking group and could be used to stage denial of service attacks, for example, the NHTCU said.

The operation was conducted jointly with officers from the Durham police force and the U.S. multi-agency CATCH (Computer and Technology Crime Hi-Tech Response Team). CATCH consists of 11 investigators from U.S. local, state and federal law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Just last month British virus writer Simon Vallor was sentenced to two years in prison for writing three viruses that authorities say infected 27,000 computers in over 40 countries.

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