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International police operation arrests cyber fraud gang

Police in six countries have arrested 49 people suspected of committing financial fraud involving email account intrusions

Police in Europe have dismantled a cyber fraud gang in a joint operation in the UK, Italy, Spain, Poland, Belgium and Georgia.

The operation saw the arrest of 49 people suspected of committing financial fraud involving email account intrusions.

Police searched 58 properties and seized laptops, hard disks, telephones, tablets, credit cards and cash, SIM cards, memory sticks, forged documents and bank account documents.

The operation was co-ordinated by Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and Eurojust, supported by UK law enforcement and the Joint Cyber Action Taskforce (J-CAT), led by Andy Archibald, the deputy director of the National Crime Agency's National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU).

The J-CAT, launched on 1 September 2014, is made up of cyber liaison officers from EU states, non-EU law enforcement partners and EC3, and is designed to drive intelligence-led, co-ordinated actions against key cyber crime threats and top targets.

According to EC3, parallel investigations revealed international fraud totalling €6m accumulated within a very short time.

The cyber criminal gang used man-in-the-middle attacks and repeated computer intrusions against medium and large European companies through malware and social engineering techniques.

Once access to companies’ corporate email accounts was secured, the criminals monitored communications to detect payment requests. The company’s customers were then requested by the cyber criminals to send their payments to bank accounts controlled by the criminal group.

These payments were immediately cashed out through different means. The suspects, mainly from Nigeria, Cameroon and Spain, transferred the illicit profits outside the European Union through a sophisticated network of money laundering transactions.

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To enable swift co-ordination and communication between the different officers involved in this transnational operation, a co-ordination centre was established at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague.

Representatives from law enforcement agencies participating in the operation were present in the co-ordination centre, facilitating international information exchange along with Eurojust. At the same time, Europol specialists provided operational support on the ground in Italy and Spain, through the deployment of Europol mobile offices.

International collaboration and co-operation is driving progress in fighting cyber crime, a panel of UK, US and European law enforcement officers told Infosecurity Europe 2015 in London.

Co-operation with business in the private sector is also an increasingly important element in fighting crime, in terms of gathering evidence and disrupting cyber criminal infrastructure, claimed the panel.

“The cyber threats are the same around the world, and the criminals operating in the UK are also operating in Europe and the US,” said NCCU deputy director Andy Archibald. “Therefore, the response must be joined up. Our understanding of the threat and collection of intelligence and evidence must be co-ordinated.”

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