Three Russian hackers accused of attacking British online casinos and bookies have been handed hefty prison sentences and fines, according to local news agency RIA Novosti.

A court in the Saratov region convicted the hackers of extorting US$4 million from the companies through denial of service attacks, and sentenced each to eight years in prison each, as well as a US$3,700 fine.

Three Russian nationals – Balakovo resident Ivan Maksakov, Astrakhan resident Alexander Petrov and St. Petersburg resident Denis Stepanov – are charged with committing a number of computer crimes via the internet, and of extorting money from several UK companies,” public prosecutor Anton Pakhomov told the news agency.

The hackers reportedly collected information about the companies using spy software and then demanded ransoms from the owners, threatening to disrupt their web servers if they did not comply. Apparently, they made 54 similar attacks in 30 countries during a period of six months.

The web server of Canbet Sports Bookmakers Ltd, which refused to pay a US$10,000 ransom demand, was blocked during the Breeders’ Cup races, and the company lost more than US$200,000 for each day of downtime,” said Pakhomov.

Maksakov and Stepanov were detained in 2004 after a probe by the UK’s National High Tech Crime Unit, Interpol, the FBI and Russia’s Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office. Petrov was arrested the following year.