Saturday, October 02, 2010

FBI Operation "Trident Breach": Ukraine's National Police Force (SBU) Arrests Cyber-Criminal "Brains"

An Internet publication called IT World (10-1-10) reports that the Ukrainian National Police (SBU, the successor agency of the Ukrainian KGB) have arrested five cyber-criminals who are thought to be the brains behind a destructive East-European criminal ring that uses the Zeus botnet to steal money from their victims' bank accounts over the Internet.

The SBU cooperated with the FBI in Operation "Trident Breach" in order to break up the criminal ring. IT World has published several stories about Trident Breach that also include links to international media stories about this international police operation.

IT World (10-1-10) reports:

Ukrainian police on Thursday arrested five people thought to be the brains behind a scam using the Zeus Trojan to siphon money from small businesses in the U.S. [See links to to official FBI reports.]

The operation is part of an ongoing effort to take down a criminal empire that stole $70 million from victims' bank accounts over the past few years. Many of those hit were small businesses or local organizations that ended up having to absorb the costs of the fraud.

Ukraine's national police force, the SBU, made the arrests as part of a joint effort with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, police in the Netherlands and the U.K.'s Metropolitan Police Service [Scotland Yard]. Those detained are "key subjects responsible for this overarching scheme," the FBI said in a statement.

Ukrainian SBU agents also executed eight search warrants in an operation that was manned by about 50 police officers.

Law enforcement officials believe they arrested a "top-tier group" of organizers of the wide-spread operation, FBI officials said at a press conference Friday. The operation used an estimated 3,500 money mules, people who transferred money back to the organizers, FBI officials said.

"We believe we've dismantled the operation" with the recent arrests, said Gordon Snow, assistant director with the FBI's Cyber Division.

The Ukraine arrests are "far more significant" than the earlier actions in the U.K. and the U.S., said Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "These are five ringleaders," he said. "All roads lead back to these five guys. The people that were arrested in the UK and the people that were arrested in the U.S... all were piling their money back to these guys in Ukraine."

Zeus is considered to be the most lucrative piece of malware ever created, and it took a network of operatives to manage the operation. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police Service in London ["Scotland Yard"] arrested 20 people, and that was followed up by more arrests in the U.S. on Thursday. Both operations dismantled the "money mule' system used to move funds overseas.

U.S. officials have charged 92 people with crimes related to the operation and arrested 39, the FBI said. The operation targeted small businesses and other organizations in the U.S., with the criminals often focusing on treasurers or chief financial officers of the organizations, the FBI said.


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