Romania emerges as nexus of cybercrime

Monday, 20 October 2003, 11:49 AM EST

It was nearly 70 degrees below zero outside, but the e-mail on a computer at the South Pole Research Center sent a different kind of chill through the scientists inside.

"I've hacked into the server. Pay me off or I'll sell the station's data to another country and tell the world how vulnerable you are," the message warned.

Proving it was no hoax, the message included scientific data showing the extortionist had roamed freely around the server, which controlled the 50 researchers' life-support systems.

The FBI traced the e-mail to an Internet cafe in Bucharest and helped Romanian police arrest two locals -- the latest evidence that computer-savvy Romanians are fast emerging as a bold menace in the shadowy world of cybercrime.

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