Law enforcement agencies in 20 countries have arrested over 1,000 people for a variety of cybercrime-related financial crimes, including investment fraud, commercial email compromise (BEC) attacks, money laundering and illegal online gambling.
The arrests took place over a four-month period between June and September 2021; they were part of an operation coordinated by Interpol, codenamed HAECHI-II and designed to tackle financial crime online. During the operation, Interpol officials piloted a new global stop-payments mechanism called the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP), which allowed them to intercept and recover nearly $ 27 million in illicit funds from cybercrime operations.
HAECHI-II is the second operation in a three-year effort to eliminate operators from certain types of financially motivated cybercrime, such as dating scams and illegal online gambling. Nations participating in the initiative include China, Japan, Korea, India, Spain, Thailand, Indonesia, Ireland and the Philippines.
Among those arrested in connection with Operation HAECHI-II was the operator of a BEC attack on a Colombian-based textile company. The attack involved the perpetrators posing as a legal representative of the company and fraudulently transferring more than $ 8 million from the textile company’s accounts to two China-based bank accounts. In this incident, Interpol was able to quickly freeze the illegally transferred funds and recover more than 90% of the money by using the new ARRP protocol to coordinate efforts between its offices in Beijing, Bogota and Hong Kong.
In another incident, officials involved in Operation HAECHI-II were able to recover more than $ 800,000 that was illegally transferred from a Slovenian company account to a bank account in China.
In addition to the arrests, law enforcement officials involved in Operation HAECHI-II were also able to gather a lot of information about the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that cybercriminals use to commit financial crimes online, according to Interpol.
Information on no less than 10 unique new TTPs has been shared with the 194 member countries of Interpol so that law enforcement officials in those countries have a better understanding of emerging criminal tactics and the commonalities between the different cases. , Interpol said.
In total, between June and September of this year, Interpol arrested 1,003 people, closed 1,660 active investigations and froze some 2,350 bank accounts associated with various online financial scams.
Law enforcement on a tear
HAECHI-II represents the increased efforts that law enforcement agencies around the world – led by Interpol – are making to tackle a wide range of cybercrime. The efforts have yielded significant results in recent months. These include the arrests of individuals suspected of being responsible for tens of thousands of attacks involving the use of the GandCrab and REvil / Sodinikobi ransomware families around the world. The suspects are accused of claiming more than $ 225 million in these attacks over a four-year period.
A similar Interpol operation resulted in the arrest of an individual suspected of participating in the massive supply chain attack on Kaseya, which resulted in the deployment of ransomware on systems owned by companies. thousands of downstream customers from multiple managed service providers.
Another recent Interpol investigation led to the arrest of six people suspected of being behind the Cl0p ransomware operation. The individuals are believed to have facilitated international transfers of over $ 500 million related to various ransomware attacks in recent years.
While such arrests are unlikely to do little to deter cybercrime in the short term, security experts have noted that they demonstrate the growing reach, willingness and capacity of international law enforcement agencies to find and catch individuals associated with major cybercrime operations. Many have said that such global cooperation is essential for the fight against cybercrime to work.