Interpol seizes £ 58.4million in multinational crackdown on financial cybercrime


A six-month crackdown in the Asia-Pacific region coordinated by Interpol resulted in the seizure of around £ 58.4million in funds that were stolen by fraudsters through scams such as fraud investment, romance scams, online sextortion and voice phishing.

Operation HAECHI-I, which ended in March this year, involved the participation of Interpol as well as law enforcement authorities from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The operation aimed to seize stolen funds and catch cybercriminals involved in a variety of investment scams and other types of online financial crime.

Since September of last year, these agencies have opened more than 1,400 investigations, of which 892 cases have been resolved to date, resulting in the seizure of $ 83 million from cybercriminals, the freezing of more than 1,600 bank accounts worldwide. and the arrest of 585 people.

“Online fraudsters often attempt to exploit the borderless nature of the Internet by targeting victims in other countries or by transferring their illicit funds abroad. The results of Operation HAECHI-I demonstrate that online financial crime is fundamentally global and that only close international cooperation will allow us to effectively fight these criminals ”. mentionned Ilana de Wild, Director of Organized and Emerging Crime at INTERPOL.

One of the cases solved by law enforcement involved a fraduster posing as business partners of a Korean company and serving the company with several fraudulent invoices containing his bank account details instead of those of the legitimate business partner. Falling into the trap, the company transferred nearly $ 7 million to the scammer before realizing it had been defrauded. Law enforcement authorities were able to quickly freeze half of the stolen funds and the case is still under investigation.

This case reminds us of a similar incident which involved a Lithuanian national targeting Google and Facebook employees with spear phishing attacks, posing as a supplier and defrauding the two companies between 2013 and 2015. Evaldas Rimasauskas, the Lithanian fraudster was sentenced to five years in prison and fined over $ 49.7 million by federal court in Manhattan at the end of 2019.

In November 2019, Nikkei also announced that an employee of its US subsidiary had been tricked by a cybercriminal into transferring up to $ 29 million (£ 22.6 million) to the latter’s account. In 2017, employees of India’s only government airline, Air India, succumbed to a phishing scam orchestrated by Nigerian hackers who impersonated Pratt & Whitney employees and tricked the latter into transferring $ 300,000 ( £ 230,905) to a bank account in Nigeria.

In September 2017, a con artist also swindled MacEwan University in Canada out of C $ 11.8 million after convincing employees to change a vendor’s payment details using email communications. After the phishing attack was discovered, the university said “controls around the process for changing vendor bank information were inadequate and a number of fraud identification opportunities had been missed.” .

According to Interpol, while cybercriminals have long been carrying out Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has been used to the maximum to target a large number of organizations around the world for the purpose of financial gain.

Interpol said that attracted by the potential for impact and high financial rewards, cybercriminals are now using disruptive malware and ransomware against critical infrastructure and healthcare facilities, with a majority of hackers fairly accurately estimating the maximum amount of ransom they could demand from the targeted organizations.

Using information related to COVID-19 as a lure, hacker groups are also injecting data collection malware such as remote access Trojans, information thieves, spyware and horses. banking Trojans in corporate computer networks to compromise networks, steal data, embezzle money and create botnets.

Since the pandemic took shape, Interpol has also observed a significant increase in the establishment of fraudulent and malicious web domains containing keywords related to COVID-19 such as “coronavirus” or “COVID”. Between February and March, an Interpol private sector partner reported a 569% growth in malicious registrations, including malware and phishing, and a 788% growth in high-risk domain registrations.

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