Overnight some 49 suspects were apprehended after authorities from six nations worked in a joint operation to target hackers connected to a high-profile phishing scheme, dubbed Operation Triangle, that led to cybercriminals successfully cashing out on over $6 million.
Law enforcement in Italy, Spain and Poland worked to coordinate the arrests, while police in Belgium, Georgia and the United Kingdom assisted in the operation, a press release from Eurojust and Europol read Wednesday.
Details regarding the hackers high-tech phishing scam remain vague, however, Europol released details claiming the individuals apprehended from Nigeria, Cameroon and Spain all phished money from their victims accounts via a man-in-the-middle (MiTM) attack.
Suspects in question are alleged to have hacked into the an unknown amount email accounts throughout Europe, targeting businesses with sophisticated malware and social engineering attacks. Once the hackers made their way inside the European-based companies attackers could detect, alter and request payments from the company’s payroll, funneling money into the hackers bank account instead of business officials.
After attacking an unknown number of businesses, hackers were able to cash out on €6 million, roughly $6.7 million, via a “sophisticated network of money laundering transactions” outside Europe, Europol said.
Twenty of the alleged suspects were apprehended in Italy, 18 in Poland and 10 in Spain, while only one suspect was found in Belgium.
As part of Operation Triangle, 58 search warrants were executed in one day, seizing all electronics belonging to suspects’ including laptops, hard drives, mobile phones, tablets, credit cards, cash, SIM cards, memory sticks, forged documents and bank documents. What forged documents hackers had been filing was not disclosed.
As law enforcement arrested several individuals behind the sophisticated phishing campign, the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust) was able to resolve three ongoing cases. The trio of cases were all linked between the three countries as well.
As case details are still being withheld, of the information released, the campaign sounds similar to a ring of cybercriminals who had been dismantled by both Europol, the FBI and Italian law enforcement back in April. In the operation, suspects from the collection of countries, alongside Nigeria, were alleged to have laundered some $3 million obtained via online fraud.
Similar to Operation Triangle, victims of the past campaign were tricked by various payment diversion scams or romance scams, where victims are coaxed into sending criminals who set up fake Internet dating profiles money. Scams generally consist of overseas hackers claiming the inability to return home or are in need of some quick cash. Once the victims send the money, hackers delete the profile, create a new one and continue with their ongoing scam and extra cash.