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Bitcoin Playing An Increased Role In Crime, Europol Says

After the joint law enforcement operation of law enforcement authorities of Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, and the United Kingdom started chasing the hacker group DD4BC (Distributed Denial of Service – DDoS – for Bitcoin), the Europol stated that Bitcoin is playing an ”increasing role in all criminal activities”.

The UK Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime Unit (MPCCU) found the key members of the cybercriminal group DD4BC in Bosnia and Herzegovina ”leading to vital information.” Activities were coordinated among law enforcement units in Australia, France, Japan, Romania, the United States, Switzerland and the Interpol.

During Operation Pleiades, a member of DD4BC was arrested by the law enforcement authorities, and another suspect has been caught. Several property searches took place and valuable pieces of evidence were gathered in the operation that was started by Austrian authorities and supported by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-Cat).

The Europol made this statement about the activities and methods of the hacker group:

”Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks remain a considerable threat in the European Union and beyond. This type of extortion attack has become a well-established criminal enterprise and has affected thousands of victims globally, with the number of unreported incidents believed to be much higher. The absence of reporting by private companies and individuals poses particular difficulties in law enforcement’s efforts to prosecute these cyber threats.”

The cybercriminal gang was infamous of their Bitcoin extortion techniques, they hijacked people’s laptops and demanded BTC from the victims. Their first priority target was the online gambling industry, however, DD4BC also targeted financial service providers and the entertainment sector, as well as high-profile companies. Wil van Gemert, Europol’s Deputy Director Operations made this statement:

“Law enforcement and its partners have to act now to ensure that the cyberspace affecting nearly every part of our daily life is secure against new threats posed by malicious groups. These groups employ aggressive measures to silence the victims with the threat of public exposure and reputation damage. Without enhanced reporting mechanisms law enforcement is missing vital means to protect companies and users from recurring cyber-attacks.”

According to a Europol representative, Bitcoin played a huge role in the arrest of the suspects:

“As Bitcoin was the payment system exploited by the cybercriminal group to receive the ransom payments, it played a role. However there were many other elements in this investigation.”

He also stated that the arrests could shine light on more clues.

“All operations, arrests and house searches performed are new sources of information and they could entail new developments in the criminal cases investigated by the law enforcement agencies; therefore, the case is not fully closed until all the information from the operation has been properly analysed. This work is currently ongoing, therefore, we cannot provide more details on this for the time being.”

The representative also wrote these in an email to the media:

“Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies are playing an increasing role in all criminal activities, not only cybercrime. EC3 cooperates with law enforcement, the private sector and academia to find suitable solutions to tackle this phenomenon. Technology is in continuous development, offering new possibilities for cyber-criminals but also to law enforcement agencies that are investigating their criminal activities. Law enforcement investigations face a number of challenges, for example, the use of crypto-currencies, anonymisation, etc.; however, as stated above, there is a continuous effort to improve the existing investigative techniques and analytical possibilities. EC3 will constantly monitor these developments to provide a better support to our stakeholders.”

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