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INTERPOL smashes African cyber crime networks

JOHANNESBURG – THE International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) has through its Africa Cyber Surge II operation arrested 14 suspects and identified more than 20 000 suspicious cybercrime networks across 25 countries on the continent.

The breakthrough follows cooperation between the organisation and global cyber security leader, Trend Micro.

Following a successful campaign to counter cyber crime on the continent last year, the policing alliance ran a four-month sequel beginning in April 2023.

Law enforcers in 25 countries participated, under the auspices of the INTERPOL Africa Cybercrime Operations Desk and INTERPOL’s Support Programme for the African Union in relation to AFRIPOL (ISPA).

Police identified a massive 20 674 suspicious cybercrime networks linked to losses of over US$40 million (R760 million).

The information provided by Trend Micro to investigators offers insights into current trends within the African threat landscape.

During the most recent African Surge operation, Trend Micro uncovered malicious infrastructure of 1 500 malicious internet protocol (IP) addresses through Trend’s Global Threat Intelligence.

These were located mainly in South Africa (57 percent), Egypt (14 percent), the Seychelles (5 percent), Algeria (5 percent) and Nigeria (4 percent).

These IPs were linked to notorious malware families including Quakbot and Emotet, which are key enablers of ransomware and other threats.

There were around 200 000 detections of malicious traffic in the first quarter of 2023, linked to scams (44 percent), malware (25 percent), phishing (17 percent) and command-and-control servers (13 percent).

Most of these were facilitated by bulletproof hosting services in the Seychelles (140 000 detections) and South Africa (56 000).

Emmanuel Tzingakis, Technical Lead, African Cluster at Trend Micro, said the African Surge operation is testament to what can be achieved when cyber security vendors and law enforcers work together to disrupt cybercrime networks.

“Trend will continue to leverage our threat intelligence to drive key insights around criminal activities in Africa and beyond, helping to put a stop to their exploitation of unsuspecting victims,” Tzingakis assured.

Cyber crime is a global phenomenon with a long history in Africa.

The Nigerian 419 scam was for years a staple of email-based fraud, and today its modern successors range from phishing and business email compromise to romance scams.

As countries across the continent digitise at a rapid pace, local criminal gangs are realising they have a potentially massive pool of victims to target at home and abroad.

– CAJ News

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