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Monday, December 17, 2001

UK, USA crack whip on cyber piracy

THE UK police arrested six men as part of an internationally coordinated crackdown on a multi-million pound software piracy scam.

U.S. Customs Agents sieze computers at from four employees of a Gateway store in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania as part of an international sting in an effort to curb hackers and crackers theft of intellectual property rights around the world. The sting by Customs was the biggest effort thus far of its type. 

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 last week.

The arrests coincided with over 100 FBI and customs raids in the USA 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 per cent of all pirated software available online, the US Customs Service said.

The NHTCU said they believe six arrested men are part of a Warez-affiliated organisation 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."

Meanwhile a report from Washington said that the US government moved to crack a massive software piracy ring, seizing computers in 27 cities in raids coordinated with four other countries.

The US Customs Service said the raids targeted the "Warez" community, those suspected of involvement with Internet sites responsible for at least $1 billion annually in lost sales of computer games, business software, digital music and digital movies.

U.S. law enforcement officials executed 37 warrants but made no arrests, said Kevin Delli-Colli, director of the U.S. Customs Service's CyberSmuggling Center.

"We have a mountain of digital evidence we need to analyze," Delli-Colli told a news conference.

Authorities in Australia, Britain, Finland and Norway executed an additional 19 search warrants and arrested five suspects, U.S. officials said.

The Business Software Alliance, a group of software companies, estimate the industry loses $12 billion a year due to software piracy.

Warez (pronounced wares), in the language of the Internet, refers to any illegally obtained digital material, ranging from pornography to computer operating systems.

At "Warez" sites, Web users can swap illegally obtained digital material.