10 hackers steal $100 million cryptocurrency in SIM-swapping attacks; arrested

The arrested accused targeted thousands of victims throughout 2020, including famous Internet influencers, sport stars, musicians and their families. (Photo: Reuters)

Ten hackers, suspected of stealing $100 million in cryptocurrency, were arrested on Wednesday.

The European police agency, Europol, said on Wednesday that it had assisted in the arrest of the criminals in the “SIM-swapping” attacks.

It said the accused were arrested following a probe with cooperation from Britain, the United States, Belgium, Malta, and Canada, Europol said.

Such attacks allow suspects to gain access to the victims’ phones.

‘Internet influencers, sport stars, musicians targeted’

In a SIM-swapping attack, criminals can gain control over a SIM — the small computer chip that carries a phone number used to identify a customer on a telecommunication network. Usually, a phone company is tricked into deactivating a working SIM and transferring its functions to one controlled by the hackers.

“The attacks, orchestrated by this criminal gang, targeted thousands of victims throughout last year, including famous Internet influencers, sport stars, musicians and their families,” Europol said in an official statement.

SIM-swapping attacks on the rise: Europol

“This enabled (hackers) to steal money, cryptocurrencies, and personal information, including contacts synced with online accounts… They also hijacked social media accounts to post content and send messages masquerading as the victim,” it added.

Europol did not identify the victims or say where the arrests took place. It advised the public not to use services that use text messages to help log in to online accounts, as these are vulnerable in SIM-swapping attacks, which it said are on the rise.

One of the most notable victims of a SIM-swapping attack in the past was Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, in 2019.

(With inputs from agencies)

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