RealTime IT News

FBI: Twilight For Bank Phishermen

An FBI investigation of an international ring of phishers that used the Internet to swap stolen IDs and credit cards - including information of customers of a "major financial institution" -- netted 17 hackers in the U.S. and Eastern Europe, federal law enforcement officials said.

Four U.S. arrests were made, along with 13 in Poland, including the alleged ringleader nicknamed "Blindroot." The probe, dubbed "Operation Cardkeeper," began after a "major financial institution" reported numerous phishing attacks between August and October 2004, according to FBI spokesperson Paul Bresson.

According to the FBI office in Richmond, Virginia, the group "compromised" around 50 servers in the area that were then used to launch the attacks. A common tactic of phishers is to take control of systems in order to deliver spam or porn.

Bresson denied the financial institution involved was E*Trade. In October, the online broker reported it had to repay $18 million to customers whose accounts were used by hackers to run "pump-and-dump" stock schemes.

The government investigation also revealed an Internet bazaar where identity thieves meet to swap stolen personal data. The forums were used "by both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to commit financial crimes," according to the FBI.

Although no financial figures were released on how much was lost due to the phishing attacks, "hundreds of thousands of dollars" are saved when stolen financial data is intercepted by the FBI, James E. Finch, assistant director of the agency's Cyber Division said in a statement.

"Cyber criminals will no longer be able to hide behind borders to conduct their illicit business," Finch said.

The government said 15 search warrants were issued, including in New York, Georgia, Nebraska, Tennessee, Ohio and Texas. Romania law enforcement are also questioning subjects.

As a result of the information turned up during "Operation Cardkeeper," several other investigations have begun, according to a statement.