Fourteen people were arrested in the UK today on suspicion of offences including laundering stolen money for international cyber criminals.
The group is suspected to have laundered more than £11 million stolen using the Dridex and Dyre streams of malicious software (malware). NCA officers believe the malware was developed and deployed by skilled cyber criminals in Eastern Europe.
The malware infects computers when the user receives and opens documents in seemingly legitimate emails, enabling criminals to gain access to their bank details. Investigators allege that the money would then be dispersed in smaller amounts to other bank accounts in the UK and in Eastern Europe.
Those arrested are suspected to have laundered the criminal profits through hundreds of accounts at various UK banks, using false identity documents and ‘money mules’ recruited and controlled by the crime group.
Today’s operation was led by the National Crime Agency, which deployed 160 officers and executed 13 search warrants. The NCA was supported by police officers from the Metropolitan, Northamptonshire, West Midlands, and Essex forces, along with Regional Organised Crime Units and Immigration Enforcement. Representatives from Moldovan and Romanian authorities were also present.
Thirteen men and a woman, aged between 23 and 52, were arrested, including a number of foreign nationals. Twelve men and the woman were detained in London, with the remaining arrests taking place in Daventry and West Bromwich.
Officers seized quantities of cash, as well as electronic devices including computers and mobile phones, which will now be subject to forensic analysis by the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit . Multiple false identity documents were also recovered.
Mike Hulett, Head of Operations at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit said:
“Cyber crime is an increasing threat in the UK and internationally, which the NCA is determined to combat at every level. The malware utilised in this case hits small and medium sized businesses particularly hard.
“Those responsible for writing, developing and deploying malware code also rely heavily on other organised criminals like money launderers, and their fraudulent proceeds can then be used to fund other criminality.
“The NCA has had tremendous support from colleagues across law enforcement and the banking industry, to close down this money laundering network. Together we have made a hole in the system which will cause significant disruption to other organised criminals.”
If any internet user thinks they have lost money through malware, they should report their concerns to Action Fraud and alert their bank.
Users are encouraged to visit the CyberAware and GetSafeOnline websites, which provide anti-virus tools to help clean up infected machines and guidance on how to protect users in the future.