Cybercrime: sports cars and millions of dollars seized in seizures

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Tom Gerken
  • Role, Technology journalist

The United States and Europe have separately announced major takedowns of cybercrime networks that have defrauded billions of people.

The United States arrested Chinese national YunHe Wang and seized assets including a Ferrari, luxury watches and 21 properties.

Europol, the EU’s crime-fighting agency, made four arrests but said eight fugitives were on the run. They will be added to Europe’s “most wanted” list.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and Europol have each claimed their operations constituted the world’s largest botnet attack.

Cybercriminals use so-called botnets to take over people’s computers and install malware.

This software can then be used to collect data from a computer, send spam, or even delete someone’s data without the owner’s knowledge.

Fraud and bomb threat

The DoJ said Mr. Wang is accused of using a botnet to hack more than 19 million devices in nearly 200 countries.

Nicole Argentieri, Principal Assistant Attorney General, said: “Wang created malware that compromised millions of residential computers around the world, then sold access to the infected computers to cybercriminals. »

She said criminals used this access to conceal their identities and “anonymously commit a wide range of offenses”. These include fraud, child exploitation and harassment – ​​and even bomb threats.

It also estimated that more than 500,000 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims were sent from computers under its control, resulting in a loss of more than $5.9 billion (£4.6 billion).

The DOJ accused Mr. Wang of using proceeds from the sale to purchase luxury assets worth $60 million and said he seized a Ferrari, a Rolls-Royce, two BMWs and multiple watches – as well as bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets.

It also purchased properties in the United States, St. Kitts and Nevis, China, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, he said.

Law enforcement agencies from Singapore and Thailand, as well as tech giant Microsoft, were among the organizations assisting in the investigation.

Mr. Wang was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, substantial wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

If convicted on all counts, he faces a maximum sentence of 65 years in prison.

Europe’s most wanted

Meanwhile, Europol said it had arrested the leaders of several cybercrime networks using botnets.

It has made arrests in Armenia and Ukraine and taken down servers around the world, including in the UK, US and Germany.

More than 2,000 websites are now under the control of European law enforcement.

Europol said one of the main suspects made more than €69 million (£58 million) in cryptocurrency through so-called ransomware – by installing software that prevents a person from access your computer unless you pay a fee.

In addition, eight fugitives on the run and wanted in Germany for their involvement in cybercrime will be added to Europe’s most wanted list.

Malware entered users’ devices primarily through phishing attempts – such as the type of emails you are advised not to click on – and compromised websites.

Europol said the dismantling – dubbed Operation Endgame – was ongoing and planned for future dismantlings.

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