Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Operation eMule: DHS Goes After Vietnamese Hackers, Identity Thieves

Via Computerworld.com -

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is cracking down on an international criminal ring, based in Vietnam, that is thought to have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from online merchants using hacking and identity theft.

Last month, agents from the DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigations unit raided the home of two Vietnamese exchange students at Minnesota's Winona State University, seizing documents and computer equipment.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the search warrant in this case, the students, Tram Vo and Khoi Van, made more than $1.2 million selling software, video games and Apple gift cards on eBay, and then shipping buyers products that they'd purchased with stolen credit card numbers.

The scam that Vo and Van are accused of has become a big problem for U.S. merchants, according to the affidavit, which was unsealed last week.


The law enforcement operation, run out of ICE's Cyber Crimes Center in Washington, D.C., has been investigating the Vietnamese crime ring since Sept. 2009 in an action called Operation eMule, according to the affidavit, which is signed by DHS Special Agent Daniel Schwarz. "The criminal ring makes online purchases from e-commerce merchants using stolen credit card information and then utilizes an elaborate network of mules based in the United States," he wrote. The criminals get stolen credit or bank card numbers by hacking PCs or databases. In some cases, they simply buy the stolen personal information from underground online marketplaces.

The criminals involved in this operation get their orders via a secured Web site that is available only to "vetted members,' Schwartz said. The money at play in this criminal enterprise is "estimated to exceed hundreds of millions of dollars," he said.

ICE and the Computer Crimes Center did not respond to calls Monday. PayPal and eBay were unable to comment immediately.

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