Romanian police made their first ransomware related arrest in five years. According to Europol, the Romanian police responded to the call of rampant ransomware attacks and sales of hacked data on the Darknet, to go all out to arrest a gang of five.
The gangs were suspected to have launched a series of cyber attacks across Europe infecting computers and holding sensitive data captive. The police, therefore, embarked on a search of their homes, through which they discovered laptops and hard drives suspected to have been used for their operations.
Claire Georges, an Europol spokeswoman said to reporters that: “It’s the first arrests for (using) this kind of ransomware in about five years…Police searched six homes and seized a significant amount of hard drives, laptops, external storage and cryptocurrency devices and documents.”
After a thorough investigation, the authorities were able to arrest three out of the five suspects in Romania while the remaining two were arrested in Bucharest. Cybercrime has been one of the major problems which Europol has sought to eradicate on the Darknet and any other online platform. The Europol has partnered the Interpol as they uphold the fight against cybercrime.
The whole of the investigative process was done by the joint operation of the British and Dutch police cybercrime units, the joint investigation with the FBI and Europol EC3 Cybercrime Centre and Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce.
The charge leveled against the arrested suspects is using the Darknet to order ransomware to infect 30,000 computers. The 30,000 is a conservative estimate according to authorities. According to a report, the gang agrees to release hacked data to its owners on the condition that a ransom is paid. George said: “We calculated that some $9 million dollars (7.5 million euros) in bitcoin payments were made at the time,” she added.
Most of the hacking operations that happen have something to do with the Darknet: either hackers purchase software from the Darknet or they sell hacked data on the Darknet.
This case is quite different from the other Darknet cyber crime cases. The gangs after every successful operation share 30 percent of their earnings with the software developer.
According to reports, the gang purchased ransomwares called CTB Locker and Ceber on the Darknet and used them for phishing method of cyber operation. They used this software to create fake pages of social platforms and other known platforms. They then forwarded these fake pages to victims as attachments, aimed to store credentials of targets who click on them.
They used this method to infect computers across the United States of America and Canada. This method has been a known method used by cybercriminals, and people are as a result advised to be cautious with the kind of links they click on.
It is revealed that 170 cases involving the cyber operation of this gang have been reported. It is likely that the group also infected computers outside the USA and Canada due to the nature of the hacking network. The authorities have warned the general public not to be in any rush to pay the ransom demanded by the cybercriminals. Victims are advised to report cases to the police before any other steps are taken.
The Europol said that the suspects will be prosecuted “for unauthorized computer access, serious hindering of a computer system, misuse of devices with the intention to commit cybercrimes and blackmail.” They will serve as a scapegoat for the rest of the cybercriminals to know that launching an attack on the internet is not safe anymore.
Authorities worldwide have made it their priority to fight against cyber criminals to the core. Cybercrime in Russia for instance has increased six fold. In spite of the arrests of most of the cyber criminals, a lot of them have been linked to some countries including North Korea to be behind the attacks.
It is speculated that North Korea hacked bitcoin from individuals and the various agencies to balance their economic variables following the sanctions leveled against them by the US government.
Cybercrime can be prevented by undertaking proactive measures such as updating a computer’s antivirus and taking basic ethics of internet usage serious.
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Author: Sam Jona