On Monday, the U.S. authorities announced the arrest of 74 individuals as part of an international law enforcement operation dubbed ‘operation WireWire’ targeting business email compromise (BEC) scams.
The authorities conducted the investigation for over six months, 42 suspects have been arrested in the United States, 29 in Nigeria, the remaining in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland.
Law enforcement seized roughly $2.4 million and was able to recover of roughly $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.
“Operation WireWire—which also included the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service—involved a six-month sweep that culminated in over two weeks of intensified law enforcement activity resulting in 74 arrests in the U.S. and overseas, including 42 in the U.S., 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland.” reads the press note released by the Department of Justice and the FBI.
“The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.”
During Operation WireWire, law enforcement executed more than 51 domestic actions, including search warrants, asset seizure warrants, and money mule warning letters
The suspects have been involved in schemes targeting businesses of all sizes and individual victims.
According to the DoJ, 23 individuals were charged in the Southern District of Florida with laundering at least $10 million obtained from BEC scams. in one case the suspects tricked a real estate closing attorney into wiring $246,000 to their account.
According to a report published by TrendMicro, Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks had surpassed the value of damage to enterprises in the past years and it is estimated that it could reach $ 9 billion dollars in 2018. This rising value of loss for business takes into account new attack vectors like the one from Lebanese Intelligence Agency Dark Caracal malware who utilizes malware in android application.
BEC frauds have devastating impacts not only on the individual business but also on the global economy.
“Since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began formally keeping track of BEC and its variant, e-mail account compromise (EAC), there has been a loss of over $3.7 billion reported to the IC3.” continues the note.
The report states that the FBI released a public announcement revealing that BEC attacks had become a $ 5.3 billion industry in the past years. In that regard, the report emphasizes that hackers are employing Social Engineering to lure and deceive employees in a myriad of scams to bypass security measures. By using a deep understanding of Human Psychology hackers are circumventing the defenses, as the report states ” it requires little in the way of special tools or technical knowledge to pull off, instead of requiring an understanding of human psychology and knowledge of how specific organizations work.”
The report lists how BEC attacks are usually conducted. The techniques are: Bogus invoice scheme, CEO fraud, Account compromise, Attorney impersonation and Data Theft. The report highlight that these attacks can be classified into two major groups: Credential grabbing and email only.
The analysis of losses caused by crimes reported in the FBI 2017 Internet Crime Report, a document that outlines cybercrime trends over the past year, BEC/EAC ($676,151,185) is prominent, followed by Confidence Fraud/Romance ($211,382,989), and Non-Payment/Non-Delivery ($141,110,441).
“BEC is a sophisticated scam targeting businesses that often work with foreign suppliers and/or businesses and regularly perform wire transfer payments. The Email Account Compromise (EAC) variation of BEC targets individuals who regularly perform wire transfer payments.” states the report.
“It should be noted while most BEC and EAC victims reported using wire transfers as their regular method of transferring business funds, some victims reported using checks.”
Today’s announcement highlighting this recent surge in law enforcement resources targeting BEC schemes “demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses,” according to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
And he added, “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens. The public we serve deserves nothing less.”
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(Security Affairs –BeC, Operation WireWire)