Arrests follow a joint British-Dutch effort
Europol and the UK’s South West Regional Cyber Crime Unit have arrested 6 individuals charged with stealing £21 million in a cryptocurrency theft.
The arrests follows a 14-month investigation by Europol, UK authorities and the Dutch police into the theft of Bitcoin tokens from at least 4,000 victims across 12 countries.
On Tuesday June 25 one woman and five men were arrested in a coordinated police raid of homes in Charlcombe, Lower Weston and Staverton in the UK, alongside simultaneous raids in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
The crimes they are accused of relate to typosquatting, which is also known as URL hijacking. This is a form of cybersquatting where a threat actor uses an existing brand or copyright to trick users into erroneously using a fraudulent website under the belief that it is the official version.
Europol states that the six arrested created a nearly identical website and URL address which imitated a prominent cryptocurrency exchange. Through this fake site they managed to gain access to the Bitcoin wallets of at least 4,000 people.
The case was first referred to the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) by British authorities who had identified possible suspects involved in the scam, these suspects were however based in the Netherlands causing the need for a coordinate European policing approach.
Europol stated in its report that: “Operational support delivered by EC3 since February 2018 allowed the J-CAT to coordinate the international cooperation between the different EU Member States involved.”
Cryptocurrency Arrests Part of Larger Europol Cyber Crime Push
The arrest of the six follows a recent spree of cybercrime cross border action by Europol as last May they also worked with international law enforcement to dismantle the crime infrastructure of the hacker group GozNym.
The GozNym group targeted financial institutions and businesses organisations, nabbing some $100,000 million. A criminal Indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, USA charged ten members of the GozNym criminal network with conspiracy to commit a range of crimes including money laundering.
Europol helped coordinate an international law enforcement raid against the cyber criminal network that targeted financial and businesses institutions, attacking some 41,000 victims with its GozNym malware.
Law enforcement in Bulgaria and Germany as well as Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and the United States were involved in the bust. Five were arrested in Bulgaria, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. The remaining five defendants are all Russian nationals. They remain wanted by the FBI.