Hundreds of powerful computers at the Defense Department and U.S. Senate were hijacked by hackers who used them to send spam e-mail, federal authorities tell USA Today. The use of government computers was uncovered during the Justice Department’s recent cybercrime crackdown. It adds another wrinkle to the use of so-called zombie PCs, which number in the millions and have bedeviled consumers and universities the past year.
Hackers gain secret control of the computers by sending e-mail viruses and worms or by planting software code on Web sites. The takeover of government computers is part of a bounty of evidence of new online scams that could lead to more busts under the crackdown, says Dan Larkin, unit chief of the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Authorities are in the process of repairing the government computers. Operation Web Snare, aided by analysts at the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance, a non-profit group in Pittsburgh supported by the FBI, tech companies and academia, netted more than 150 arrests and equipment involving dozens of spammers and online fraudsters.