Europol: Five arrested in Romania for cyber attacks in the EU and the US

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Romanian authorities have arrested five individuals suspected of having committed a series of cyber attacks targeting entities in the European Union and the United States of America, the European Police Agency (Europol) has announced on Thursday.

“During the last week, Romanian authorities have arrested three individuals who are suspected of infecting computer systems by spreading the CTB-Locker (Curve-Tor-Bitcoin Locker) malware – a form of file-encrypting ransomware. Two other suspects from the same criminal group were arrested in Bucharest in a parallel ransomware investigation linked to the US,” a release posted on Europol website reads.

“During this law enforcement operation called “Bakovia”, six houses were searched in Romania as a result of a joint investigation carried out by the Romanian Police (Service for Combating Cybercrime), the Romanian and Dutch public prosecutor’s office, the Dutch National Police (NHTCU), the UK’s National Crime Agency, the US FBI with the support of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT).

As a result of the searches in Romania, investigators seized a significant amount of hard drives, laptops, external storage devices, cryptocurrency mining devices and numerous documents. The criminal group is being prosecuted for unauthorised computer access, serious hindering of a computer system, misuse of devices with the intent of committing cybercrimes and blackmail.

In early 2017, the Romanian authorities received detailed information from the Dutch High Tech Crime Unit and other authorities that a group of Romanian nationals were involved in sending spam messages. This spam was specifically drafted to look like it was sent from well-known companies in countries like Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. The intention of the spam messages was to infect computer systems and encrypt their data with the CTB-Locker ransomware aka Critroni. Each email had an attachment, often in the form of an archived invoice, which contained a malicious file. Once this attachment was opened on a Windows system, the malware encrypted files on the infected device.

CTB-Locker was first detected in 2014 and was one of the first ransomware variants to use Tor to hide its command and control infrastructure. It targets almost all versions of Windows, including XP, Vista, 7 and 8. Once infected, all documents, photos, music, videos, etc. on the device are encrypted asymmetrically, which makes it very difficult to decrypt the files without the private key in possession of the criminals, which might be released when victims pay the ransom.

As a result of the law enforcement activities, more than 170 victims from several European countries have been identified to date; all filed complaints and provided evidence that will help with the prosecution of the suspects,” the release concludes.

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