12 December 2001: Add report on 6 arrests in Britain. Few arrests have been reported, and none yet in the US. News of other arrests is welcomed, in particular arrests of individuals that have not been reported in the news. Send to: email@example.com
11 December 2001
US Department of State
International Information Programs
11 December 2001
(Three separate operations target "WAREZ" piracy groups) (1320) Law enforcement officials in the United States and overseas executed more than 100 search warrants December 11 in a major crackdown on the illegal transfer of software, computer games and movies over the Internet, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Three separate operations -- code-named "Buccaneer," "Bandwidth" and "Digital Piratez" -- struck at all aspects of the so-called "WAREZ" community, a group of software thieves who specialize in the duplication and reproduction of copyrighted software over the Internet, DOJ said in a news release. U.S. officials say the WAREZ community and its member groups are believed to be responsible for 95 percent of Internet sites containing pirated software. Business losses due to software piracy are estimated to exceed $12,000 million worldwide. "The execution of these search warrants mark the completion of the most extensive software piracy undercover investigation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has participated in to date, and should send the message that trafficking in stolen goods -- whether the property is in physical or electronic form -- is a serious crime and will be prosecuted," FBI Director Robert Mueller said in the DOJ release. The largest operation was Buccaneer, which involved the simultaneous execution of 58 search warrants against high-level WAREZ members in the United States and overseas and is the first enforcement action to reach across international borders, DOJ said. Agents will continue to pursue additional targets in the months ahead, officials said. Following is the text of the news release: (Note: In the text "billion" means 1,000 million) (begin text) U.S. Department of Justice FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2001 WWW.USDOJ.GOV FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT TARGETS INTERNATIONAL INTERNET PIRACY SYNDICATES Multiple Enforcement Actions Worldwide Snare Top "WAREZ" Leadership WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Attorney General John Ashcroft announced today that in three separate federal law enforcement actions federal agents executed approximately 100 search warrants worldwide against virtually every level of criminal organizations engaged in illegal software piracy over the Internet. The three Operations, codenamed "Buccaneer," "Bandwidth" and "Digital Piratez," struck at all aspects of the illegal software, game and movie trade, often referred to as "WAREZ scene." "Today U.S. law enforcement initiated the most aggressive enforcement action to date against illegal software piracy," Attorney General Ashcroft said. "Many of these individuals and groups believed the digital age and the Internet allowed them to operate without fear of detection or criminal sanction. Today, law enforcement in the U.S. and around the world proved them wrong. These actions mark a significant milestone in the efforts of U.S. law enforcement to work internationally to combat what is truly a global problem," said Ashcroft. "The execution of these search warrants mark the completion of the most extensive software piracy undercover investigation that the FBI has participated in to date, and should send the message that trafficking in stolen goods -- whether the property is in physical or electronic form -- is a serious crime, and will be prosecuted," said Robert S. Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The targets of these Operations included both individuals and organizations, known as "WAREZ" groups, that operate within the United States and in various nations around the world and specialize in the illegal distribution over the Internet of copyrighted software programs, computer games and movies. The investigations will continue to identify and pursue additional targets in the months ahead. Operation Buccaneer: Operation Buccaneer was the culmination of an investigation that has been ongoing for over a year under the direction of the U.S. Customs Service and the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, working in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Buccaneer marks the most significant law enforcement penetration ever of international organizations engaged in the illegal distribution of copyrighted software, games and movies over the Internet. The enforcement action involved the simultaneous execution of 58 search warrants against high-level WAREZ leadership and members within the United States and abroad. It is also the first enforcement action to reach across international borders and strike at the most highly placed and skilled members of these international criminal enterprises. Although one of the primary criminal enterprises targeted by Operation Buccaneer was the WAREZ group known as "DrinkOrDie," which consists of approximately 40 members worldwide, the investigation has led to infiltration and development of cases against individuals from other top groups as well. The organizations targeted by Buccaneer are highly structured and security-conscious criminal groups that specialize in obtaining the latest computer software, games, and movies; stripping ("cracking") copyright protections; and releasing the final product to hundreds of Internet sites worldwide. Because the "suppliers" to these groups are often company insiders, pirated products frequently are in circulation before, or within hours, of the release of the legitimate product to consumers. The groups are structured specifically to avoid detection. It is expected that hundreds of thousands of copies of software programs, computer games and movies will be recovered by this effort, with a retail value that is expected to be in the millions of dollars. Buccaneer also marks an unprecedented degree of cooperation and coordination with international law enforcement in the fight against Intellectual Property violations committed via the Internet. Through a variety of authorized means, the United States has shared evidence with counterparts in the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, and Finland to help further identify and investigate numerous significant foreign targets engaged in this criminal conspiracy. Operation Bandwidth: On December 11, 2001, the longest running of the undercover operations culminated with the execution of over 30 search warrants across the United States and Canada. This undercover operation, code-named 'Bandwidth,' was a two-year covert investigation established as a joint investigative effort to gather evidence to support identification and prosecution of entities and individuals involved with illegal access to computer systems and the piracy of proprietary software utilizing 'WAREZ' storage sites on the Internet. Bandwidth, through the joint efforts of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General (EPA-OIG), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), created a 'WAREZ' site, controlled and monitored by the undercover operation, as a means of attracting predicated targets involved with the distribution of pirated software. The undercover 'WAREZ' site has been accessed to transfer over 100,000 files, including over 12,000 separate software programs, movies and games. Over 200 different individuals participated in the software pirating efforts. Those individuals were able to attain first-run movies, the latest computer games, and versions of notable software products even before they were publicly introduced. As a result of Operation Bandwidth, thousands of copies of pirated software are expected to be removed from circulation, as well as the seizure and forfeiture of the computer hardware and servers used to facilitate the crimes. Operation Digital Piratez: Operation Digital Piratez is a year-long undercover operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Boston Field Office, which has been supervised by the United States Attorney's Office for the District of New Hampshire. On December 11, 2001, the FBI executed nine search warrants, and obtained consent for an additional three searches, on computers located across the country. During this investigation, undercover Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation successfully infiltrated several WAREZ distribution organizations. This investigation targeted not only the WAREZ sites and those who operated them, it also targeted the "cracking groups" specifically created for the purpose of pirating software so that it may be distributed over the Internet in violation old U.S. copyright laws. Each of the ongoing investigations has benefited from the important assistance provided by various intellectual property trade associations, including the Interactive Digital Software Association, the Business Software Alliance, the Motion Picture Association and individual companies, including Microsoft and Sega Corporation. (end text) (Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Source: http://www.customs.gov/121101f.htm Tuesday, December 11, 2001 U.S. Customs Dismantles One of the World's Most Sophisticated Internet Piracy Networks 'Operation Buccaneer' Targets 'Warez' Cyberspace Gangs And Their Multi-Billion-Dollar Software Piracy Scheme WASHINGTON, DC-The U.S. Customs Service today executed 37 search warrants in 27 U.S. cities in connection with Operation Buccaneer, an unprecedented investigation into a global network of cyberspace gangs responsible for pirating billions of dollars worth of software over the Internet. Law enforcement authorities in four foreign nations simultaneously executed an additional 19 search warrants and arrested five individuals in connection with the case. The software pirated by these groups included expensive business software, firewall and other security software, and copyrighted games, music and digital videos. Operation Buccaneer is the first federal investigation of Internet software piracy to reach across international borders. Beginning at 10:30 Eastern Standard Time today, U.S. Customs agents executed search warrants on major universities, businesses and residences around the country, seizing computers and computer hard drives used to store and distribute pirated software. Today's enforcement actions were closely coordinated with authorities in Australia, England, Finland, and Norway. "Operation Buccaneer is the largest and most extensive investigation of its kind," said U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner. "This investigation underscores the severity and scope of a multi-billion-dollar software swindle over the Internet, as well as the vulnerabilities of this technology to outside attack." The enforcement actions today mark the first overt phase of a fifteen-month undercover investigation by the U.S. Customs Special Agent-in-Charge Office in Baltimore, Maryland; the U.S. Customs CyberSmuggling Center (C3) in Virginia; and the Justice Department's Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) in Washington, D.C. Operation Buccaneer targeted the WAREZ community, a loosely affiliated network of software piracy gangs that engage in the duplication and reproduction of copyrighted software over the Internet. It is estimated that the WAREZ community is responsible for nearly 90% of the Internet sites that offer pirated software. _____________________ Tuesday, December 11, 2001 The "DrinkOrDie" Group: What is it? Who are they? What is the DrinkOrDie Group? What is the DrinkOrDie Group? DrinkOrDie is one of the oldest and most sophisticated software pirate groups within the "Warez" community, which is a loose, global network of Internet pirate gangs. According to DrinkOrDie's public website, the group was founded in Moscow in 1993 by a Russian individual known as "Deviator." Membership quickly expanded from a group of Russian nationals to worldwide membership by 1995. In one of its earliest pirating feats, DrinkOrDie claims credit for having released MS Windows 95 over the Internet two weeks before Microsoft released it to the American public. Today, DrinkOrDie has become one of the most accomplished and sophisticated Internet piracy groups in the world. What is the Warez community? Beginning in the early 1990s, groups of computer hackers began organizing into competitive gangs that stole software, "cracked" or removed its protections, then posted it on the Internet for distribution by others. These Internet pirate gangs collectively became known as the Warez community. There are between 8 and 10 major groups and several, smaller groups in the Warez community. DrinkOrDie is one of the major groups. Who are the members of DrinkOrDie? DrinkOrDie members are technical experts in programming, Internet communications and Internet security. They come from all walks of life. Many are successful white-collar business people by day, and DrinkOrDie members by night. The U.S. Customs has identified members who are corporate executives, computer network administrators at major U.S. universities, employees of large hi-tech companies, students, and even government workers. Some members of DrinkOrDie and other Warez groups are software company employees who steal their firm's software prior to its public release and provide it to other Warez members. What is the motivation of these groups? Do they do it for money? DrinkOrDie and other Warez groups steal software for the mere challenge and fun of it. Reputation is everything to them. Earning an online reputation as the fastest to steal, "crack," and release high-quality, pirated software over the Internet is most important to them. Groups compete against each other in these efforts. Some even have web sites celebrating their greatest pirating feats. They also view themselves as Robin Hood figures -- pirating new software so it can be distributed freely over the Internet. They seek an Internet devoid of rules or law. Profit does not appear to be a prime motive, although members operate websites that allow users and other members to download pirated software for a monthly subscription fee.
Source: Thanks to EL, cypherpunks, posted to IP list. From: "Bill Sodeman" <firstname.lastname@example.org To: <email@example.com http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/11/technology/11CND-PIRACY.html The New York Times December 11, 2001 In 27 Cities, U.S. Carries Out Raids in Software Piracy Case By DAVID STOUT WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 - Federal agents carried out dozens of raids today against a far-flung network suspected of pirating billions of dollars worth of computer software - ranging from operating systems to the latest music videos and movies - over the Internet. Agents seized computers and hard drives in at least 27 cities in 21 states in raids on businesses, university computer centers, Internet service providers and many residences. Foreign law enforcement people staged about 20 similar raids in Australia, Britain, Finland and Norway. Treasury and Commerce department officials said more raids will be conducted in the weeks ahead. No arrests were made in the United States, partly because today's operations were aimed at gathering evidence. Some of the people implicated, aware that they could face charges of conspiracy or theft of intellectual property, are already cooperating with the authorities, department officials said. The operation that culminated in today's raids, after a 15-month inquiry, is part of "the largest and most extensive investigation of its kind," Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said. <snip Officials said offenders could face up to three years in prison, upon conviction, and depending on their willingness to cooperate. By midday, the authorities said, more than 60 people in the United States had been identified as being involved in the pirating operation. Several suspects have already been charged overseas. The target of the raids was the "Warez" group, a loosely affiliated network of software-piracy gangs that duplicate and reproduce copyrighted software over the Internet. Of special interest today was a Warez unit known as "DrinkOrDie," probably the oldest and best known in the Warez network, officials said, adding that DrinkOrDie members take special pride in having cracked and pirated the Windows 95 operating system three days before its release to the public. Members of Warez includes corporate executives, computer-network administrators and students at major universities, government workers and employees of technology and computer firms, the Customs Service said today. The agency said the piracy ring is aided by insiders in stealing the software and that the ring relies on elaborate computer-security devices to minimize risk of detection. Raids were carried out today at the University of California at Los Angeles, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Duke University and the University of Oregon, officials said. They said the universities themselves, like the various companies raided today, were not involved in the wrongdoing by their employees and were cooperating in the inquiry. Cities where raids were staged included New York, Washington, Houston, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta and Chicago, the government said. ==========================
Wednesday December 12 8:34 AM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Police said on Wednesday they had arrested six men as part of an internationally coordinated crackdown on a multi-million pound software piracy scam.
Officers from the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHCTU) detained the six men, all British nationals in their 20s and 30s, in raids across the country on Tuesday afternoon and evening.
The arrests coincided with over 100 FBI and customs raids in the United States targeting the ``Warez'' group, a 1,500-strong network accused of breaking copy protection schemes on games, music and digital video through underground web sites worldwide.
Raids were also conducted in Australia, Canada, Finland and Norway.
The Warez ring is responsible for 95 percent of all pirated software available online, the U.S. Customs Service said.
The NHTCU said they believe six arrested men are part of an Warez-affiliated organization known as ``Drink or Die,'' one of the illegal network's largest and most sophisticated groups.
Police searched 11 addresses in Staffordshire, Kent, London and Merseyside, seizing computer hardware and software.
The six were arrested for alleged conspiracy to defraud and are being interviewed by NHTCU officers at various police stations in England.
Detective Superintendent Mick Deats, deputy head of the NHTCU said: ``This was a painstaking investigation which involved my officers working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies in using the very latest technology to combat this type of crime.''