The Month: Global snapshots – Credit card fraud; pornography at Catholic school; hacking to ransom

UK An international gang of ID thieves is finally behind bars after stealing at least £750,000 in one 18-month period. The gang applied for credit cards in other people's names, then abused the cards. A police raid netted huge amounts of evidence, but much was destroyed by a gang member who managed to flick a switch, wiping databases and triggering layers of encryption.

Spain Hackers have begun ransoming Hotmail accounts, refusing to returncontacts and emails until they are paid. Some Hotmail users havediscovered all their information missing, save one email in Spanishdemanding payment. It's likely that the hackers are using keyloggers ininternet cafes to gain passwords and login information, according toWebsense.

Romania A hacker has been charged with breaking into about 150 systemsbelonging to the US government. Victor Faur, 26, of Arad, Romania, isaccused of disrupting computers used by NASA, the Energy Department andthe Navy. NASA was forced to to use backup systems to communicate withspacecraft while damage was repaired.

China A threefold increase in global phishing attacks in December hasbeen blamed on the republic. South Korea is also in the frame, asphishing emails increased from 0.4 per cent of total spam the previousmonth to 2.2 per cent. China is now the number one generator of phishingemails, according to Marshal's Threat Research and Content Engineering(TRACE) Team.

US A spyware firm faces fines and costs of $1 million (£509,000) in the first successful prosecution under Washington state'santi-spyware laws. Secure Computer offered spyware scans that wouldinevitably claim to find malware. A licence fee would be demanded toclean the machine, but cleaning would not take place.

UK A Roman Catholic school has banned 65 pupils from using internetfacilities after "inappropriate materials" including pornography wereaccessed on school PCs. Web-savvy kids at St Thomas More RC High Schoolin North Shields were apparently using a proxy avoidance website tobypass the school's security system.

Pakistan Police have arrested a 23-year-old man for "hacking to ransom",according to Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency. Waqas Abrar isaccused of hacking into a corporate email account and demanding 40,000rupees (£335) to restore access. He faces up to seven years injail and one million rupees (£8,378) in fines.

New Zealand A 16 year old sent on a PC training course as part of arehab programme has admitted hacking into online bank accounts, stealingnearly dollars NZ50,000 (£17,500). Police say he posted a virus ona message board and used it to capture personal details from hisvictims. He faces a maximum of five years imprisonment.

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