Sunday, October 11, 2009

‘Phishing bust’ in Egypt and US

An international phishing scam has been uncovered. It involves cyber criminals in Egypt and the US and Egypt.

Accordingly, authorities have made around 80 arrests, following a two-year investigation into this organized crime gang. Reports suggest that they have stolen around $1.5 million in phishing attacks on hundreds of US bank accounts, and it’s somewhat puzzling to note that the attacks originate from Egypt!

The Egyptian nationals arrested are 47 people, who have been charged with computer fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identify theft.

The remaining thirty-three suspects arrested came from California, Nevada, and North Carolina, and it is reported that the US authorities are seeking a further twenty people.

Here’s the story cirulating in the media: “The gang launched the phishing attacks from Egypt to gain account details of customers with two US banks. Once the accounts were compromised, money was stolen from legitimate customer accounts by transferring it into bogus accounts set up by the US part of the gang. The US gang members would then withdraw funds from these accounts and transfer the profits by wire transfer to Egypt.”

The FBI's Los Angeles office led the investigation, calling the operation ‘Phish Phry', and cooperated with Egyptian authorities in what is now considered to be the first joint cyber investigation between the US and an Arab country. Even the US Secret Service and Electronics Crimes Task Force were involved.

This bust is being hailed as ‘an organized response by law enforcement across international borders, which we have seen in this case.’

What worries international police is this emerging trend of cross-country crime, facilitated by the Internet.

Criminal groups can now recruit skilled programmers abroad to help commit organized theft. Hacking, fraud and identity theft, are quite common but utilizing Arab and Middle Eastern talents to carry out such attacks in America and Europe is a new development.

A statement by the FBI includes gratitude to law enforcement partners in the U.S. and the Egyptian government's dedicated cooperation.

This shows that, in the Internet age, borders cease to exist among countries, and that the only way to uphold the rule of law is cooperation.

This breaking story has placed the spotlight on growing Internet-related crime in the region, and you can expect to read more about this topic as international cyber crime evolves. It’s an eye-opener, and an opportunity to start monitoring Internet-related crime in our region.

zanasser@gmail.com