Massive Cyber-Based Financial Crime Suppression Includes “Squid Game” Trojan

An operation coordinated by INTERPOL under the code name HAECHI-II saw police arrest more than 1,000 people and intercept a total of nearly $ 27 million in illicit funds, underlining the global threat of financial crime linked to cybercrime .

Running over four months from June to September 2021, Operation HAECHI-II brought together specialized police units from 20 countries, as well as Hong Kong and Macao, to target specific types of online fraud, such as scams. dating, investment fraud and money. money laundering associated with illegal online gambling.

In total, the operation resulted in the arrest of 1,003 people and enabled investigators to close 1,660 cases. In addition, 2,350 bank accounts linked to illicit proceeds of online financial crime have been blocked. More than 50 INTERPOL notices have been published based on information relating to Operation HAECHI-II and 10 new criminal modus operandi have been identified.

HAECHI-II is the second operation in a three-year anti-cybercrime financial crime project supported by the Republic of Korea and the first truly global in scope, with the participation of INTERPOL member countries on all continents .

The operation also allowed INTERPOL officials to test a new global stop-payments mechanism – the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP) – which has been found to be critical to successfully intercepting funds. illegal in several cases HAECHI-II.

“The results of Operation HAECHI-II show that the surge in online financial crime generated by the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing down,” INTERPOL Secretary-General Jürgen Stock said. “It also underlines the essential and unique role played by INTERPOL in helping member countries tackle a crime that is inherently without borders. It is only through this level of global cooperation and coordination that national law enforcement agencies can effectively tackle what is a parallel pandemic of cybercrime. “

While INTERPOL plans to officially launch ARRP next year, the organization’s financial crime unit continues to work with member countries to integrate the system into existing communication channels.

Far from the common notion of online fraud as a relatively low-level, low-stakes type of crime, the results of Operation HAECHI-II show that transnational organized crime groups have used the internet to extract millions of their victims. before channeling the illicit money into bank accounts around the world.

In just one case in Colombia, a leading textile company was defrauded of more than $ 8 million through a sophisticated business email compromise scam. The perpetrators posed as the company’s legal representative, ordering the transfer of more than $ 16 million to two Chinese bank accounts. Half of the money was transferred before the company discovered the fraud and alerted Colombian judicial authorities, who in turn quickly contacted INTERPOL’s financial crime unit through from their National Central Office (BCN) in Bogota.

Taking advantage of the new ARRP network, channels of international police cooperation have been activated between INTERPOL’s offices in Beijing, Bogota and Hong Kong to freeze transferred funds. Thanks to this new network, which streamlines police communications in cases of opposition to international payments, more than 94% of the money was intercepted in record time, saving the Colombian company from bankruptcy.

In another case, a Slovenian company was tricked into transferring more than $ 800,000 to money mule accounts in China. Again, as the Slovenian criminal police opened an investigation and contacted their foreign counterparts through INTERPOL and other channels, streamlined coordination through the Chinese INTERPOL NCB in Beijing enabled local authorities to successfully intercept and return all the funds stolen from Slovenia.

Months of close collaboration between specialist police units around the world have also generated important insights into new trends in online financial crime. Based on information gathered during Operation HAECHI-II, INTERPOL has issued several purple notices – international police alerts that seek or provide information on the modus operandi, objects, devices and methods of concealment used by the criminals. The opinions are then shared with the 194 member countries of INTERPOL so that the police can discuss emerging criminal methods and establish links between cases.

A purple notice requested by Colombia during the operation details a mobile application loaded with malware using the name and brand of the Netflix show “Squid Game”. Impersonating a product affiliated with the popular TV series, the app was actually a Trojan virus which, when downloaded, was capable of hacking a user’s billing information and subscribing to services. “Premium” paid without the explicit approval of the user. Although reported in Colombia, the app has also targeted users in other countries. The operation also benefited from the expertise of INTERPOL’s cybercrime capabilities to help member countries tackle the growing threat of computer fraud.

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