FBI Reels in 100 Phishers in Huge Cybercrime Case

Dennis Faas's picture

Amidst news that thousands of Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo accounts have been compromised in recent weeks, there's some good news for the good guys: over a hundred phishers have been brought to justice in a multinational investigation spanning half the globe.

Phishing involves using a fake web page to dupe visitors into entering their sensitive information, including passwords or credit card data. The phisher can then use that information to steal identities and clear out bank accounts.

Operation Phish Phry

The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation yesterday revealed that it had charged 53 defendants with cybercrimes after an investigation found major phishing schemes operating in both the U.S. and Egypt. Egyptian authorities later revealed that they had charged 47 alleged members of the phishing ring on their side of the Atlantic. To date, of the 53 charges by the FBI in the U.S., 33 have already been arrested.

Humorously dubbed "Operation Phish Phry," the investigation was first launched back in 2007. (Source: pcworld.com)

Phishers Cooperate to Defraud U.S. Banks

Unlike the phishing operations that targeted Microsoft Hotmail, Google Gmail, or Yahoo Mail accounts, in this case the target was not the passwords or login information of everyday web users. Instead, the U.S. and Egyptian phishers charged on Wednesday are accused of collecting personal data in hopes of defrauding U.S. banks; according to the authorities, the Egyptian hackers acquired the bank information and then sent it on to their American associates, who could then make withdrawals with stolen identities. Part of the swag then made its way back to the Middle East.

Although news of the arrests is cause to celebrate, the FBI is concerned about the abilities of these phishers -- it could mean operations like this one only grow more and more advanced in the future.

"The sophistication with which Phish Phry defendants operated represents an evolving and troubling paradigm in the way identity theft is now committed," remarked acting assistant director of the Los Angeles FBI, Keith Bolcar. "Criminally savvy groups recruit here and abroad to pool tactics and skills necessary to commit organized theft facilitated by the computer, including hacking, fraud and identity theft, with a common greed and shared willingness to victimize Americans." (Source: informationweek.com)

The 53 Americans involved in the scheme face charges of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, which could leave them behind bars for twenty years.

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