21 people have been arrested across the UK as part of an operation which targeted the customers of the online criminal marketplace, WeLeakInfo.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) coordinated the operation, which ran over five weeks and involved teams from across the Team Cyber UK network.
WeLeakInfo was a site that hosted 12 billion stolen credentials from over 10,000 data breaches. Cybercriminals would pay for access to the site in order to download the data for further criminality – including cyber-attacks and fraudulent activity. The site was shut down in January 2020.
NCA investigators identified UK customers of WeLeakInfo, before forwarding that information on to their partners. Nine of the 21 people arrested were detained on suspicion of Computer Misuse Act offences, nine for fraud offences and three are under investigation for both.
It’s been reported that a further 69 individuals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland aged between 16 and 40 have been visited by Cyber Prevent officers. 60 of those were served with cease-and-desist notices.
Paul Creffield, from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said of the investigation: “Through the identification of UK customers of WeLeakInfo, we were able to locate and arrest those who we believe have used stolen personal credentials to commit further cyber and fraud offences.
“The NCA and UK law enforcement take such offences extremely seriously and they can result in huge financial loss to victims.
“We were also able to pin point those on the verge of breaking the law and warn them that should they continue, they could face a criminal conviction. Cyber skills are in huge demand and there are great prospects in the tech industry for those who choose to use their skills legally.”
How do authorities approach cybercrime investigations?
Put simply, a cybercrime investigation involves analysing and recovering forensic digital data from networks that have been attacked – either on the internet or a local network. The primary aim of any cybercrime investigation is to identify anyone implicit in the crime.
Investigations are carried out by a criminal justice agency, a national security agency or a private security agency. In some cases, investigations will be carried out by a combination of entities, as seen in the WeLeakInfo crackdown.
A standard investigation will see various techniques used in order to identity anyone involved in the cybercrime. The starting point will usually be to gather general information regarding the nature of the attack, before progressing on to tracking and identifying perpetrators using Internet Service Provider information.
Digital forensics will then be used to carefully examine the systems affected. Raw data, hard drives and caching devices will be just some of the elements that are analysed by researchers, who are looking for trails of digital fingerprints in system files and network logs. The investigation process can take some time to complete.
What are the penalties for cybercrime?
The conviction someone receives if they are found guilty of committing a cybercrime will vary depending on the severity of the offence in question, as well as factors such as the level of culpability of the person found guilty and any mitigating factors that may apply.
Online fraud offences are some of the most commonly prosecuted types of cybercrime offence and can result in up to five years imprisonment and a hefty fine – as well as additional ancillary orders.
How Wells Burcombe can help if you are being investigated for a cybercrime offence
If you are being investigated for a cybercrime offence, such as the WeLeakInfo crackdown, our specialist Proceeds of Crime and Confiscation and Serious Fraud and Business Crime partners are on hand to lend their expertise.
Our Proceeds of Crime and Confiscation team specialises in defending clients who are subject to confiscation proceedings, and our specialist fraud defence solicitors have substantial experience in handling complex and high value fraud and business matters.
We act for both defendants and third parties and our solicitors also have extensive experience acting on matters involving the Serious Fraud Office, as well as the CPS.
We believe that it is vital for anyone facing an investigation to seek out professional advice at the earliest possible opportunity as this can have a huge beneficial effect on the potential outcome of a case.
Contact our Criminal Defence Solicitors for Advice About Cybercrime Offences
If you are being investigated for the WeLeakInfo crackdown, or are being implicated in any other cybercrime, get in touch with our expert criminal defence lawyers for advice and legal representation.