UK police have arrested 57 cyber crime suspects in 25 separate operations in the past week co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in partnership with industry and government.
The arrests relate to a range of cyber crimes, including network intrusion and data theft from multinational companies and government agencies, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, cyber-enabled fraud, and malware development.
The operation took place across England, Scotland and Wales and saw officers deployed from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU), the Metropolitan Police and Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs).
“The 56 arrests around the country this week are a result of the essential partnership activity with law enforcement, industry and government that is at the heart of fighting cyber crime,” said Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCCU.
“Criminals need to realise that committing crime online will not make them anonymous to law enforcement. We are continuously working to track down and apprehend those seeking to utilise computers for criminal ends, and to disrupt the technical networks and infrastructures supporting international cyber crime,” he added.
Archibald said it was “imperative” for police to work with partners to pursue and disrupt major crime groups targeting the UK, and work to make sure people have the knowledge and resources to make the UK as inhospitable as possible for cyber criminals.
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Those arrested include a 22-year-old man from Aldbourne, Marlborough, on suspicion of developing and distributing malware, a 25-year-old man from north London on suspicion of deploying malware against banks resulting in financial losses, an 18-year-old man in Watford on suspicion of developing and administering the Titanium and Avenger stressor tools that have been used in DDoS attacks on public sector websites, and two men, aged 38 and 29, in south London and the Cambridge area relating to the theft of valuable intellectual property from a London financial company.
The NCA said that, working with the FBI, the East Midlands ROCU served a production order on a hosting company whose servers are suspected of being used to house criminal infrastructure.
Several ROCUs have also issued cease and desist orders, visiting individuals who have been identified as purchasing remote access tools (RATs).
The NCA said the week-long operation involved a “pioneering approach” in helping small and medium enterprises, hosting companies and ISPs to identify threats on their infrastructure.
Police visited about 60 businesses with personalised security data reports, identifying 5,531 compromises on servers within the UK.
The compromises could be used to send out spam email, launch attacks against websites or servers, or install phishing websites to gain access to sensitive information.
The NCA estimates that organisations acting on this advice could, between them, clean up to half of the phishing attacks that typically originate from the UK each month.
“Cyber crime is not victimless,” said national policing lead for cybercrime, Peter Goodman. “A high-end cyber attack against financial institutions could have a far-reaching impact on our economy.
“Small and medium-sized businesses can be bankrupted by a cyber attack, with owners and staff losing their jobs.”
Goodman said UK law enforcement is transforming its response to cyber crime. “We now have an effective national cyber crime unit and regional units tackling this crime, who have worked together this week to target those who are using the internet to steal, commit fraud or impact on organisations’ ability to do their business,” he said.
A video highlighting some of the NCA operational activity during the week of action
Malcolm Marshall, global leader of KPMG’s cyber security practice, added: “Cyber crime is no longer a niche crime, it is pervasive.
“One of the reasons that cyber crime has become so widespread is that the chances of getting caught are too close to zero, so it's good news that the NCA is taking action.”
But Marshall said the success of the NCA’s efforts would depend on the justice system’s ability to respond effectively.