US officials successfully extradited a 30-year-old Italian man for his role in creating and running a botnet of hacked servers.
Authorities say the botnet operator, named Fabio Gasperini, created his botnet by hacking into servers across the world, where he left a backdoor.
He later used this backdoor to install special software that would perform two tasks. The first would be to scan for other vulnerable servers so Gasperini could expand his botnet, while the second task was to disguise the server as a browser and access sites and click on ads.
Gasperini operated his click-fraud botnet between February 2011 and June 2016. Following a joint investigation by the FBI, Dutch and Italian police, the Dutch arrested Gasperini in Amsterdam on June 18, 2016, where he moved from Rome, his hometown.
Following a raid, police said they found over €300,000 ($325,000) at his home. Other raids took place in Rome, Reggio Calabria, and Venice, where Gasperini's brother and four accomplices lived. The codename of this operation was HackinItaly.
Authorities charged the other five with hacking and money laundering, but US authorities requested Gasperini's extradition. Gasperini was arraigned in a US court on April 21, last week.
According to Italian press, Gasperini appears to have learned the technical skills to operate his botnet after he worked together with his brother as the technical staff of an online betting site.
Besides his regular job, Gasperini created and used the botnet of hacked servers to click on ads hosted on his own personal sites, defrauding online advertisers.
Later, Gasperini started renting traffic from the botnet to other sites. He invoiced these companies in his own name, but never more than €5,000 per invoice, the minimum value for which freelancers don't have to apply VAT (value added tax) in Italy.
Because occasional freelancers can't work for more than 30 days per calendar year, he used the personal tax codes of his brother and the other four accomplices to launder the money obtained from these contracts.
While authorities found €300,000 at his home, they believe he made much more than that.
In the US, authorities have charged Gasperini with two counts of computer intrusion, one of wire fraud, one of wire fraud conspiracy, and one of money laundering conspiracy.