Interpol has arrested an alleged internet scam king based in Nigeria, claiming that it shows online crimes are not beyond the reach of the law.
The alleged scammer, known only as ‘Mike’, is said to have amassed as much as $40m from the scams, which range from the distribution of malware, to large-scale business payment and CEO frauds. One scam is said to have netted $15.4m from a single target.
The frauds took place in a variety of locations, including Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the US, and around 40 individuals based in Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa were involved in the scams.
Mike was arrested alongside a 38-year-old, also based in Nigeria, and they now face charges including “hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretences”. They are both on bail.
The scammer first came to the attention of Interpol via security company Trend Micro, which worked with the agency to pinpoint his location. Then, working with the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), the agencies set about arresting him.
Abdul Chukkol, head of the EFCC’s Cybercrime Section, said that the arrest should act as a warning to others in Nigeria that online crimes will not go unpunished.
“For a long time we have said that in order to be effective, the fight against cyber crime must rely on public-private partnerships and international cooperation,” he added.
“The success of this operation is the result of close co-operation between Interpol and the EFCC, whose understanding of the Nigerian environment made it possible to disrupt the criminal organisation’s network traversing many countries, targeting individuals and companies.”
Trend Micro CTO Raimund Genes described the arrests as a notable success in the fight against online scammers.
“This is an especially noteworthy accomplishment for the security community given the complexity of BEC [Business Email Compromise] campaigns and the scale of this international criminal network,” he said.
The arrests are the latest win for the good guys in the online cyber crime fight. Kaspersky, Intel and Europol announced the launch last week of an online portal designed to fight ransomware, which contains as many as 160,000 keys to help victims unlock their machines free of charge.
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