Europol detains hackers for millionaire cryptocurrency celebrity theft

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The European agency, Europol, announced on Wednesday (10) that the investigation action in which it participated culminated in the arrest of 10 hackers suspected of stealing $ 100 million in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and beyond.

The group reportedly used the victims’ cell phones as an access point to their digital wallets. The practice, classified as “SIM-swapping” or exchanging SIM cards, was the common point in these attacks that allowed hackers to have improper access to smartphones.

Europol detains group of 10 hackers involved in $ 100 million “theft”

The news is advanced by the Reuters agency, reporting the various arrests throughout Europe and the United States of America. The authorities have also carried out arrests in Belgium, Malta, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to Europol.

The attack orchestrated by a group of hackers targeted hundreds of victims during the year 2020, including several celebrities and Internet influencers, as well as sports stars, musicians and their families. ” advances Europol in a statement.

The arrests took place after the completion of the investigation phase led by the European agency that culminated in the location of the hackers.

Having obtained their location and confirming the illicit, the local authorities proceeded with the deprivation of liberty.

The attack was perpetrated by exchanging SIM cards

Also describing the attack methodology, Europol details the practice of SIM-swapping, or changing the phone’s identifying chips.

Something that hackers used to gain control over a certain SIM, the chip containing the unique phone number, among other unique data and user identifiers, also containing the network key used to access the mobile network.

The methodology involved convincing a respective operator that a number had been deactivated. The decoy, when applied successfully, led the telecommunications operator to disable a perfectly functional SIM and transfer its functions and credentials to a chip controlled by hackers.

The door was thus opened for illegal acts, with the hacker posing as the victim, usurping his identity.

The practice is well known and detailed by the authority forces

Through this method, hackers stole large amounts of money, cryptocurrencies, personal data and even the contacts of those numbers. This also allowed them to access and control the social networks associated with that phone number.

Note that in several social networks the two-factor authentication or verification system uses the phone number as a data and a crucial step. It is, for example, to the phone that the authentication code of various services like WhatsApp is forwarded.

We thus see the possibilities that such access left open to hackers, a methodology widely explored during 2020. Among the famous targets is the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, attacked in 2019.

Europol advises users not to rely on authentication and verification mechanisms that use incoming SMS as a means of security, something the entity says is quite susceptible to misappropriation.

Unfortunately, to date this is one of the most used methods to authenticate an account, and it is also the most convenient.

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