China jails Trojan virus authors in cybercrime crackdown

A Chinese court Wednesday sentenced 11 members of a malware ring for writing and distributing Trojan horse viruses meant to steal online game account passwords, according to state media.

The people, who stole login information for more than 5 million game accounts, were given prison sentences of up to three years and were fined a total of 830,000 Chinese yuan (US$120,000), China's Xinhua news agency said. Dozens of other members of the ring, which is suspected of 30 million yuan ($4.4 million) in crime, are expected to be sentenced soon, Xinhua said.

Reports of arrests and court sentences for cybercriminals have become increasingly common in China after the country has strengthened its laws governing the activity. The government action has come in response to increasing signs of organization among cybercriminals, including division of the labor needed to design, distribute and profit from information-stealing malware.

The huge popularity of online games in China has helped fuel the growth in cybercrime. Attackers often loot virtual equipment such as gold coins, weapons and armor from stolen game accounts and sell the items to other players for physical cash.

Those sentenced Wednesday made at least 950,000 yuan ($140,000) by selling stolen equipment and virtual currency, Xinhua said.

Another Chinese court this week handed prison terms down to five people for their roles in a cyberattack that took down Internet service in several provinces, according to local media. The people attacked the servers of a rival online gaming company in May, triggering an escalation of technical problems that affected regional network operators and caused the blackout.

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