Ukraine police arrested five individuals accused of being part of a cyber-crime ring that used the Zeus Trojan to steal $70 million from U.S. bank accounts, the FBI said Oct. 1.
The arrests were made Sept. 30, and targeted people the FBI described as "key suspects responsible for this overarching scheme." Authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom the week of Sept. 27 have been taking action as part of an international crackdown on cyber-crime. According to an FBI news release:
""Operation Trident Breach began in May 2009, when FBI agents in Omaha, Nebraska, were alerted to Automated Clearing House (ACH) batch payments to 46 separate bank accounts throughout the United States. Agents quickly realized the scope of the crime and partnered with local, state, and federal partners, cybercrime task forces, working groups, and foreign police agencies in the Netherlands, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom to bring those responsible to justice.""
According to the FBI, the gang "targeted small- to medium-sized companies, municipalities, churches, and individuals, infecting their computers" with a variant of Zeus, which was used to swipe bank account numbers, passwords and other log-in data. All told, the thieves attempted to steal $220 million, "with actual losses of $70 million from victims' bank accounts."
The fraudsters also used foreigners on U.S. student visas as mules. The mules opened bank accounts under fake names and transferred the stolen money overseas, authorities said. In addition to the arrests in the Ukraine, on Sept. 28 UK police arrested 19 people accused of involvement in cyber-theft from banks, while the FBI charged dozens of people in the United States.
"No one country, no one company and no one agency can stop cyber-crime," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said in a statement. "The only way to do that is by standing together. For, ultimately, we all face the same threat. Together, the FBI and its international partners can and will find better ways to safeguard our systems, minimize these attacks and stop those who would do us harm."