Europol Cybercops Take Down Ransomware Ring
Today in international tech news: A multimillion-dollar European cybercrime ring is busted; Brazil rejects Apple's iPhone claim; Spanish researchers concoct a better sat-nav system; Sweden has the best 4G; and a Finnish antipiracy group turns the tables and rips off The Pirate Bay.
The European police agency, Europol, announced Wednesday that it had dismantled a Russian-led, Spain-based cybercrime organization.
The organization extorted millions of euros across more than 30 countries, mostly in Europe, according to The New York Times.
The group's plan was to get Internet users to think they were paying police fines for illegal activities on the Internet. The scheme worked by installing malware which locked the computer, and then sending a follow-up message demanding about US$135 to unlock it. Investigators said that the group likely targeted people who were using the Internet illegally for content like child pornography or illegal file-sharing.
The kingpin of the operation was arrested in Dubai in December, and this month Spanish police arrested 10 more people -- six Russians, and two apiece from Ukraine and Georgia.
The group's base was Costa del Sol, a tourist hotspot in southern Spain.
Interpol's director ventured that only about 3 percent of those hit up for money paid, but the money added up nonetheless: The group reportedly netted more than $1.3 million in Spain alone.
Brazil Rejects Apple's iPhone Claim
Regulators in Brazil rejected Apple's request to use the iPhone name in Brazil, instead ruling in favor of Brazilian electronics maker IGB Electronica.
IGB had applied to register the moniker in 2000 and won rights in 2008, Bloomberg reported. Lengthy rulings are apparently par for the course in Brazil: Apple submitted its request seven years ago.
Better Sat-Nav System Developed
Spanish researchers have developed a system that will "greatly improve" the accuracy on car-based satellite navigation, according to the BBC.
The system combines a conventional global positioning system signal with accelerometers and gyroscopes; it is able to find a car's location to within 6 1/2 feet. The system's developers said the margin of error on current commercial GPS systems is about 50 feet in open spaces and can be closer to 175 feet in cities, where buildings can muddy signals.
Researchers hope the system will soon be available on smartphones.
Sweden Tops in 4G
Sweden's 4G network clocked in with an average download speed of 22.1 Mbps. The U.S., meanwhile, was at 9.6 Mbps.
Denmark, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Germany were also ranked ahead of the U.S.
The U.S.'s ranking may be due to the configuration of domestic carriers' networks, GigaOM reported. Most global operators use 40 MHz of spectrum, while U.S. carriers are working with smaller swatches of airwaves.
Finnish Antipiracy Group Goads Pirate Bay
There's nothing like a little intra-Scandinavian showmanship to liven up its file-sharing community.
The Pirate Bay is "outraged" by the move, according to Torrent Freak, and the site's owners intend to sue CIAPC.
Having helped get Finnish Internet service providers to block The Pirate Bay, CIAPC is now offering legal alternatives to that site. All the links at its new website lead users to a page informing them about those alternatives.