Europol, the pan European police agency, has assisted in the arrest of a total of 10 cybercriminals who siphoned off $100 million in digital currencies using the so-called SIM-swapping technique.
The official press release detailed that the perpetrators were targeting high-profile victims, famous internet influencers, sports stars, musicians and their families in the United States.
“The attacks orchestrated by this criminal gang targeted thousands of victims throughout 2020,” Europol stated. “The criminals are believed to have stolen from them over USD 100 million in cryptocurrencies after illegally gaining access to their phones.”
The arrests came after a year-long investigation made by the collaboration of authorities in the United Kingdom, United States, Belgium, Malta and Canada. Europol coordinated the international operations across Europe.
The recent eight arrests were made following the two arrests, one in Malta and the other in Belgium.
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“Initiated in the spring of 2020, the investigation uncovered how a network composed of a dozen criminals worked together to access the victims’ phone numbers and take control of their apps or accounts by changing the passwords,” Europol added.
A Popular Way of Hacking
SIM-swap is a popular technique used by hackers to gain control over the victim’s phone and then manipulate the applications or other personal stored details. Europol even identified this tactic as one of the key trends in cybercrime.
Despite its popularity, it is very hard to curb such fraud tactics. Several arrests and convictions were made in the past related to such hacks.
Mobile services provider AT&T was sued multiple times by the victims of the SIM swap attack for the company’s negligence in curbing such frauds. Most recently, the US authorities charged a telecom employee with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in a SIM-swap fraud.