Europe Arrests 43 In Sweeping Crackdown On Cyber Gangs

Europe Arrests 43 In Sweeping Crackdown On Cyber Gangs

It's not just street-level gangs that are being swept up by police forces around the world - white collar cyber criminals are increasingly becoming a target. This week saw a joint international operation lead to the dismantling of a group of cybercriminals who were active throughout Italy, Spain, Poland, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Georgia.

The gang are accused of committing financial fraud involving email account intrusions.

In total 49 suspected members of the criminal group were arrested while 58 properties were searched. Authorities seized laptops, hard disks, tablets, telephones, credit cards and cash, SIM cards, memory sticks, forged documents and bank account documents.

The operation was led by Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and Eurojust, with the cooperation of the Italian Polizia di Stato (Postal and Communications Police), the Spanish National Police, the Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation, and various UK law enforcement bodies.

Investigations by those force, conducted in parallel, uncovered fraud totaling over $6 million, all within a very short span of time.

The group used a so-called man-in-the-middle attack, where hackers intercepted communications to sensitive finance email accounts, repeatedly intruding on the computers of medium and large European companies using malware and social engineering.

Once access to corporate email accounts was secured, the hackers monitored communications to spot outgoing invoices.

The customers of each company receiving the invoices were then instructed by the cybercriminals to send their payments to bank accounts controlled by the gang.

Operatives from Nigeria, Cameroon and Spain then cashed out the ill-gotten profits through a sophisticated network of money laundering transactions.

Europol set up a coordination center at its headquarters and monitored the gang around the clock, informing law enforcement of the gang's activities in each country where it was active.

While a rather crude attack compared to that launched against the German Parliament, it shows that formerly street criminals are now moving into the digital world.

The arrested members will have bail hearings later next week.

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