Members of a gang who targeted celebrities and stole more than $100 million in cryptocurrencies and other assets have been arrested.
The criminals used a technique called SIM swapping to hack into the phones of high-profile musicians, sports stars, influencers and their families.
Following an international investigation that began last year, law enforcement from the U.S., Belgium, Malta, Canada, and Britain helped to coordinate the arrest of 10 criminals.
The SIM-swapping attack has been identified as a growing trend from Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment.
The scheme works by allowing criminals to take control of the SIM card within the phone — switching the allocated number over to a SIM belonging to one of the fraudsters.
Once the hackers have control, they can access apps and switch passwords — and steal money, crypto and personal data. Some attackers even logged in to social media accounts, posting as their victims.
Europol said the criminal network was able to take over the victims’ phone numbers by “exploiting phone service providers to do the swap on their behalf, either via a corrupt insider or using social engineering techniques.”
Detectives have warned that anyone can fall victim to SIM swapping — and have encouraged the public to limit the personal data they share online, and opt for two-factor authentication instead of validating logins through text messages.
The news came as Elon Musk urged investors to steer clear of wallets that don’t provide private keys. After lashing out at the Freewallet team on Twitter, he implied that it was safer to keep crypto elsewhere. Several experts have also said to avoid third-party providers and instead store their assets in secure wallets.
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