Inhabitant of Almere (25) suspected of international data theft and trafficking
In late November, the cybercrime team of the Amsterdam police force arrested a 25-year-old man from Almere who is suspected of stealing or trafficking personal data of tens of millions of people around the world.
The man came under the scrutiny of the federal police in Austria, who were investigating a dataset offered on a cybercrime forum that was used for trading in stolen databases, credit card details, login details and other data. In May 2020, a dataset was found containing millions of address and personal data of the Geburen Info Service GmbH (GIS), which collects TV and radio licence fees in Austria.
The Austrian Federal Criminal Investigation Department purchased the dataset in an undercover process. After extensive investigation into financial flows and the platform used to send the data, among other things, the Austrian Federal Criminal Investigation Department was able to trace an IP address, which led to a residential address in Amsterdam.
In May this year, the Vienna Public Prosecution Service asked the Amsterdam Public Prosecution Service to take over the criminal prosecution of the suspect. The Amsterdam police's cybercrime team further investigated the data provided by Austria and the user name that was used on the cybercrime forum.
The team has strong indications that the suspect was operating under that user name and that he had, for a long time, been offering non-public personal data – including patient data from medical records – on the forum for payment under that name.
Reportedly, this did not only involve sensitive data of Austrians, but also data of individuals from other countries such as the Netherlands, Thailand, Colombia, China and the United Kingdom. The cybercrime forum has since been taken offline by foreign police and investigative agencies.
The 25-year-old suspect was in full confinement until 15th of December. This is why the arrest was not reported earlier. Meanwhile, the Public Prosecution Service suspects him of four offences: possessing or making available non-public data, possessing phishing software and hacker tools, computer hacking and habitual money laundering.
Habitual money laundering concerns crypto currency transactions amounting to €450,000 in 2022. The chambers of the Amsterdam court extended the pre-trial detention by 90 days on 5 December. During house searches in Almere and Amsterdam, police found a large number of data carriers, on which, among other things, phishing software and hacking tools were found. Currently, the financial and digital investigation is still ongoing.
Hacked databases are traded for large sums of money on hacker forums and darkweb, for example. With the theft of large amounts of digital data, combining different databases and trading access to this data, more and more criminals know where a person lives, performs bank transactions, what car they have, what their password is, what phone numbers they have, where they work, go to school etc. Where it used to be necessary to observe people for weeks to identify the right victim, now a push of a button suffices.
It has been said that data is the new gold. Criminals have also discovered this digital gold.
This kind of criminal activity not only grossly violates the privacy of millions of people but also causes financial damage to individuals and businesses. Police and prosecutors are committed to fighting this complex form of crime by detecting and prosecuting cybercriminals.