Police in Spain have broken up a cybercrime gang made up of Ukrainians and Russians that allegedly stole more than 1 billion euros from financial institutions worldwide in a five-year spree.
According to statements issued by the Spanish police and Europol, the leader of the gang, a Ukrainian named “Denis K.” and his three suspected accomplices of Russian and Ukrainian origin, have been identified and arrested in the Spanish city of Alicante. In Ukraine, police said that an unidentified 30-year-old man linked to the gang was cooperating with authorities.
The hackers — whose activities have long been tracked by security researchers — used malware to target more than 100 financial institutions worldwide, sometimes stealing up to 10 million euros in each heist. Almost all of Russia’s banks were targeted, and about 50 of them lost money in the electronic robberies, authorities said. The gang used well-worn techniques such as booby trapped emails to break into banks and compromise the networks controlling ATMs, effectively turning the machines into free cash dispensers.
Authorities said that the gang converted its illicit gains into bitcoins and used the cryptocurrency to purchase big ticket items, including houses and vehicles, in Spain. In each attack, the hackers’ modus operandi followed a familiar formula: bank workers would be targeted with emails claiming to come from legitimate companies, but carrying a malicious attachment. Once executed, the malware would give the remote hackers control over the compromised computer, granting them access to the bank’s internal network, and able to infect servers used to control ATMs.