DOJ Takes Down Cyber Criminal Network That Cost Hundreds of Millions

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The operation involves arrests and searches in five countries.

The Justice Department and Pennsylvania prosecutors are working with police from more than 40 nations to take down a worldwide cyber criminal network called Avalanche, the department said Thursday.

The operation includes arrests and searches in five countries and blocking more than 800,000 malicious internet domains, according to a news release from DOJ and Pennsylvania federal prosecutors.

The Avalanche network used hundreds of thousands of compromised computers worldwide to infect other computers with malicious code and to steal and launder money, DOJ said.

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The network is likely responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in financial losses, though precise calculations are difficult to make, the department said.

The group targeted over 40 financial institutions, according to an alert from the Homeland Security Department's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team also released Thursday.

The operation involved compromising the computers of unsuspecting victims with malicious code and using those computers to spread more malware and to launch denial of service attacks against websites, US-CERT said.

The Avalanche network was also used in “money mule” schemes to recruit criminals to commit computer fraud, US-CERT said.

Additional information will be released next week, DOJ said.

The operation is being partly conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania. That’s the same office that brought criminal charges against five Chinese hackers connected with the People’s Liberation Army in 2014.

It’s not clear if the district’s acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song will bring indictments in this case, though the release promises more information about victims from the district.

The operation began Nov. 30 in cooperation with Europol and Eurojust, a European Union criminal agency located in The Hague.