11 people arrested, accused of running ransomware scam

Spanish police have arrested 11 people as part of an investigation into a cybercriminal gang that was spreading ransomware on computers worldwide and generating profits from fake fines of more than $1.3 million per year.

The ring planted software on targeted computers that told users via official-looking messages that they viewed illegal content, such as images of child sex abuse or pirated material. The victims were then asked to pay fake fines of around $130 as a penalty for the so-called offense and to unlock access to their computer.

email scam malware

The victims had to pay the penalties through two types of payment gateways, Europol said, and criminals also stole data and information from the computers they infected with the ransomware. They then used stolen credit cards details to extract cash from the accounts of victims via ATMs in Spain.

It’s unclear how many people worldwide have been affected by the plot. The con was first detected in May 2011, and Spanish officials said they had more than 1,200 cases reported in their country alone.

The people arrested were from Russia, Georgia and Ukraine. One of them is a 27-year-old Russian man who allegedly came up with the idea and developed the ransomware. He was arrested in the United Arab Emirates and is awaiting extradition to Spain.

Authorities also raided the network’s financial cells in Costa del Sol. There they found credit cards used to cash out the money that victims paid via Ukash, Paysafecard and MoneyPak vouchers, as well as around 200 credit cards that were used to withdraw some $34,000 in cash before the arrests.

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