Romania still hub for cyber-crime gangs

Romania still hub for cyber-crime gangs | Kyu Han

Several cyber-crime cases dismantled by Romanian police in cooperation with international law enforcement show that the country is still a hub for cyber-related crime, sources reported.

According to a report published by the Balkan Insight, Italian and Romanian police recently dismantled a cybercrime gang that stole 1 million euros from hundreds of customers of two major European banks, as Europol announced on Thursday.

The organized crime group was essentially comprised of Italian nationals used phishing emails impersonating tax authorities to harvest the online banking credentials of their victims and then transferring the money to Romania.

In the details, the report said that the money was withdrawn from ATMs in Romania with credit or debit cards linked to the criminal accounts. Europol said they are also suspected of money laundering, drug and human trafficking, prostitution and of participation in a criminal organization.

Police arrested 20 suspects, nine in Romania and 11 in Italy, after a two-year investigation.

A wave of high-profile cyber-crime cases, including an unemployed Romanian taxi driver who called himself "Guccifer'' and hacked the emails of former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and former President George W Bush in 2011, have also put a spotlight on the dark side of Romania’s growing IT industry.

A Romanian national, Nicolae Popescu, is the second most wanted on the FBI’s cybercrime list, with a 1-million-dollar reward for his arrest.

He escaped arrest in 2010, before the Romanian police could produce a warrant. Popescu was involved with an estimated 250 Romanians in the “Valley of the Kings” case, the country’s biggest cybercrime bust; the perpetrators allegedly stole 750.000 euros by faking auctions on e-Bay.

Europol says that in early 2017, the Dutch High Tech Crime Unit tipped off Romanian authorities about a group of Romanian nationals who were behind a wave of spam that pretended to originate from well-known companies in countries such as Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. Europol says the operation identified more than 170 victims from several European countries.

With the fifth fastest internet speed in the world, Romania is one of the EU countries most vulnerable to cybercrime, according to studies. Romania remains a center for cybercrime in Eastern Europe, despite the efforts of the police to crack these networks.