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03 Nov 2006

Phishing gang arrested in USA and Eastern Europe after FBI investigation

17 individuals held in investigation that covered USA, Poland and Romania

Phishers steal money and confidential data from internet users. Image copyright (c) Sophos
Phishers steal money and confidential data from internet users.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have welcomed the news that members of an alleged international phishing gang have been arrested following an FBI investigation.

More than 20 FBI offices are said to have been involved in the investigation into the global identity theft ring, which is claimed to have been involved in a phishing attack against a major financial institution between August and October 2004.

In an investigation called "Operation Cardkeeper", FBI agents, working with local authorities, identitifed a criminal ring who were allegedly selling stolen identities, credit card and bank account information through a forum on an internet website.

The suspected ringleader of the gang, a Polish man known as "Blindroot", is said to have hacked into third party computers to rent out webspace to other criminals who wanted to host bogus websites for the purposes of phishing.

Four arrests were made in the USA and 13 people were apprehended in Poland. The American suspects were caught with cards and machines used to encode data onto blank credit cards and when authorities attempted to search the premises, one suspect tried to flush counterfeit credit cards down the toilet. In addition to the arrests, raids were reportedly carried out in New York, Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Georgia and Ohio, and search warrants served on three other suspects under investigation in Romania.

"The authorities fighting computer crime should be applauded for working together across international boundaries to break up these criminal gangs," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Phishing and identity theft are global problems, and countries need to work more closely with each other to bring the bad guys to justice. Although the news of these arrests is good news, it's only the tip of the iceberg as there are many other phishers still at large."

Sophos experts encourage all computer users to learn how to reduce the risk of being hit by a phishing attack.

"All computer users should exercise caution over the emails they open, which websites they visit, and who they give their confidential information to as they may find they are falling into a hacker's trap," continued Cluley.

Sophos recommends companies protect their desktops, servers and gateways with a consolidated solution to thwart the threats of viruses, spyware, phishing and spam.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.