Law enforcement agencies around the world have shut down what they claim was one of the world’s biggest cyber crime rings, behind as much as $530 million in consumer losses across the world.
Thirty-six people have been arrested by authorities in Australia, Britain, France, Italy, Kosovo and Serbia as part of the operation.
The US Justice Department, which led the global operation, claim that the group operating within an online discussion forum that they called “infraud”.
In this scheme, the hackers stole and sold valuable personal information, including US social security numbers, passwords and other valuable data that could be used in identity fraud. The Department claimed that the group had launched attacks across the world.
It added that the group had tried to sell 795,000 HSBC bank details, credit card numbers and PayPal logins. They also distributed malware on their forum, claimed the Department.
The group, which adopted the slogan “In Fraud We Trust”, had been operating since 2010. Ukrainian national Svyatoslav Bondarenko is accused of being the chief architect of the scheme, while other members had strictly defined roles in the hierachy, according to the DoJ.
Legal documents suggest that Bondarenko saw the forum as a “comfortable and safe” environment that could “bring together professional people for who carding and hacking become a lifestyle”.
Bondarenko, the Department claims, was responsible for managing the organisation. Interestingly, however, he reviewed potential sales on the forum and would ban devices from Russian victims.
The organisation did not just provide a facility where hackers could flog stolen data and credentials. It also laundered the proceeds of sales of goods bought with stolen credit card numbers via an escrow account.
This account used digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, WebMoney, Perfect Money and Liberty Reserve, to launder the funds. Sergey Medvedev is accused of running this particular part of the operation.
US officials have indicted the men with a plethora of charges, including bank fraud, wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering.
“The actions of computer hackers and identity thieves not only harm countless innocent Americans, but the threat they pose to our financial system and global commerce cannot be overstated,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) acting executive associate director Derek Benner.
He continued: “The criminals involved in such schemes may think they can escape detection by hiding behind their computer screens here and overseas, but as this case shows, cyberspace is not a refuge from justice.
“HSI will continue working with our law enforcement partners in this country and around the world to aggressively target cyber thieves to ensure the perpetrators face the full weight of the law.”