- 50,000 targeted groups identified
By Kingsley Nwezeh
In a joint operation, the International Police (Interpol) and the Nigerian Police smashed a Nigerian cyber crime gang that scammed governments and companies in 150 countries since 2007.
A statement issued on the Interpol website said the year-long investigation code-named ‘Operation Falcon’ resulted in the arrest of three Nigerian suspects in Lagos.
The three suspects were arrested in Lagos following a joint INTERPOL, Group-IB and Nigeria Police Force cybercrime investigation.
It said the Nigerian nationals are believed to be members of a wider organised crime group responsible for distributing malware, carrying out phishing campaigns and extensive business email compromise scams.
The suspects are alleged to have developed phishing links, domains, and mass mailing campaigns in which they impersonated representatives of organisations and then used the campaigns to disseminate 26 malware programmes, spyware and remote access tools, including AgentTesla, Loki, Azorult, Spartan and the nanocore and Remcos Remote Access Trojans.
“These programmes were used to infiltrate and monitor the systems of victim organisations and individuals, before launching scams and syphoning funds”, it said.
According to Group-IB, “the prolific gang is believed to have compromised government and private sector companies in more than 150 countries since 2017”.
Group-IB was also able to establish that the gang is divided into subgroups with a number of individuals still at large.
While investigations are still ongoing, some 50,000 targeted victims have been identified so far.
The year-long investigation, dubbed ‘Operation Falcon, saw INTERPOL’s Cybercrime and Financial Crime units work closely with Group-IB to identify and locate threats, and ultimately, assist the Nigerian Police Force, via the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Abuja, in taking swift action.
Group-IB’s participation in the operation came under Project Gateway, a framework which enables INTERPOL to cooperate with private partners and receive threat data directly.
Craig Jones, INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Director highlighted the outstanding cooperation between all those involved in the investigation and underlined the importance of public-private relationships in disrupting virtual crimes.
“This group was running a well-established criminal business model. From infiltration to cashing in, they used a multitude of tools and techniques to generate maximum profits.
“We look forward to seeing additional results from this operation,” he said.
The statement further noted that at a time of increased threat, members of the public, businesses and organizations are reminded to protect themselves from online scams by following the advice featured in INTERPOL’s #WashYourCyberHands, #OnlineCrimeIsRealCrime and #BECareful campaigns.