By Paul Ciocoiu
The Bucharest branch of the Organised Crime and Terrorism Investigation Department (DIICOT) led a nationwide operation and arrested 40 young people suspected of committing online fraud worth 11m euros.
The police moved in to apprehend the group after its activities spread to seven counties.
The DIICOT issued a press release saying it “searched 42 houses belonging to members of a group specialised in cyber attacks through the Voice over IP (VoIP) technology — Internet telephony”.
It suspects those arrested made nearly 1.5 million fraudulent phone calls totaling 11 million minutes.
Police say the suspects gained access to the IT systems which enable the VoIP technology by using various applications to launch cyber attacks. By doing so, the suspects identified the user accounts and passwords needed to access the servers that offer the VoIP services. Once the servers crashed, the suspects resorted to other IT applications to make 100 calls simultaneously.
The group initially used the systems to make phone calls to people they knew but realised the potential for greater financial gains, and founded a firm earlier this year as a cover for their illegal activities.
Soon they started making phone calls overseas, overcharging the cost of the call.
Police say the investigation spanned 11 months and during the search, officers and prosecutors confiscated computers and data storage devices. Evidence shows that for each phone call made, a group member would receive 10% of the value of the overcharged call from the phone companies which offer such services.
To increase their profits, the group recruited 30 people over the course of the year and trained them, police said.
Consequently, from February to December, the group — now numbering 40 — called 10,000 such surcharged numbers abroad, generating 11m euros. According to investigators, the group made a net profit of 1m euros.
The damaged parties are mostly foreign telecommunication companies.
The news of this major operation by Romanian police coincided with a cybercrime forum hosted by Bucharest on December 14th and 15th, a first for Romania. According to the justice ministry, the forum’s purpose was to create a platform of co-operation and dialogue between public institutions and private companies, in order to facilitate information and experience exchanges, co-operation, professional training and to make combatting cybercrime more efficient.
This spring, the DIICOT broke up another network, this time of hackers in Valcea County — perceived as a Romanian cybercrime nest — in an operation initiated in 2006. The ramifications of the group’s illegal activities affected countries from the Czech Republic to the United States; more than 800 people were defrauded.