On Thursday 3 November, 14 people were arrested in the UK 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 (or malware). National Crime Agency officers believe the malware was developed and deployed by skilled cyber criminals in Eastern Europe.
In use, the malware infects computers when the user receives and opens documents in seemingly legitimate e-mails, enabling criminals to subsequently gain access to their bank details. Investigators allege that the money would then be dispersed in smaller amounts to other bank accounts both here 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 as well as ‘money mules’ recruited and controlled by the crime group.
The operation was led by the National Crime Agency, which deployed 160 officers and executed 13 search warrants. The Agency was supported by police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service, Northamptonshire Police, West Midlands Police and Essex forces along with representatives of 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 arrests also taking place in Daventry and West Bromwich.
Officers seized quantities of cash, as well as electronic devices including computers and mobile phones. These devices will now be subject to forensic analysis by the National Cyber Crime Unit. Multiple false identity documents were also recovered.
Mike Hulett, head of operations at the National Crime Agency’s National Cyber Crime Unit, explained: “Cyber crime is an increasing threat in the UK and internationally. It’s a threat that the National Crime Agency is determined to combat at every level. The malware used in this case hits SMBs 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.”
Hulett added: “The National Crime Agency has received tremendous support from colleagues across law enforcement and the banking sector to close down this money laundering network. Together, we’ve made a hole in the system which will cause significant disruption to other organised criminals.”