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NCA: Users of illegal web tools targeted in joint law-enforcement activity

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Chief Rat

27 June 2018

Users of widely available cyber tools that could be hired to carry out cyber-attacks against victims have been targeted as part of an operation co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency and the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (WMROCU).

The joint law enforcement activity targeted prolific users of ‘off the shelf’ services who had each amassed over 1,000 offences under the Computer Misuse Act.

Officers from Regional Cyber Crime Units in the West Midlands, East Midlands, North West, East Of England, Metropolitan Police, North East, Yorkshire and Humber and Scotland carried out arrests and prevent activity over the last week.

In total, seven warrants were executed in an ongoing series of activity against offenders.

The DDos-for-hire services - also known as ‘booters’ or ‘stressers’- could be rented for a small sum in order to launch so-called distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks, in which high volumes of internet traffic are launched at target internet connections to disable websites or individuals’ internet use. Individuals with little or no technical knowledge used the service to launch crippling DDOS attacks across the world.

This type of software is often hidden behind a veil of authenticity, claiming to have legitimate use to test the resilience of servers, but in reality is used by cyber criminals to ‘stress’ systems. It’s this ‘stress’ that causes the disruption to services.

Investigators believe there were thousands of worldwide victims ranging in scale from large businesses to the general public.

Investigations carried out by West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit originally identified users of the tool and working alongside officers from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, intelligence packages were developed and shared with Regional Organised Crime Units as part of the coordinated activity.

As well as the traditional law enforcement approaches like pursuing and arresting offenders, the NCA coordinates cyber Prevention work across the UK, primarily aimed at young people on the fringes of cyber crime.

This work has shown fairly low level criminal activity can quickly graduate to more serious and complex forms of crime and young people can also find themselves exploited by serious organised criminals seeking to take advantage of their technical skills.

Senior Investigating Officer Jo Goodall, of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) said:

“A key function of the National Cyber Crime Unit is developing intelligence, attributing data to suspects and tasking and working closely with Regional Organised Crime Units to pursue and disrupt cyber criminals. This cooperative work has allowed us to effectively degrade the threat of these services.

“The work of our Prevent team is a vital part of this activity, deterring young people from becoming involved in serious cyber crime.

“We want to make those young people aware that online crime can result in prosecution, affect their future prospects, and cause their families distress.

“Even the most basic forms of cyber crime can have huge impacts and the NCA and police will arrest and prosecute offenders, which can be devastating to their future.

“And we want to encourage them to use their technical skills for good instead, as the UK needs their skills

Nigel Collins, head of the West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit, said:

“The UK’s position regarding denial of service is clear, it is volume crime that causes significant damage and disruption to UK businesses and communities. West Midlands ROCU have conducted a significant amount of work to understand this criminality and remain committed to working with our local and international partners to reduce this threat and divert people away from crime, channelling their skills productively in the process.”

The latest cyber protection advice for the public and businesses is available from the National Cyber Security Centre at www.ncsc.gov.uk

Further details about the Computer Misuse Act can be found at the National Crime Agency website

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