Irish Daily Star

Gardai reel in phishing fraud suspects


- ■■Nicola DONNELLY

TWO men have been arrested and cash, cryptocurr­ency and electronic items as well as a Rolex watch were seized in an operation targeting organised fraud.

As a result of the arrests and seizures, gardai and internatio­nal law enforcemen­t agencies have severely disrupted LabHost, one of the world’s largest phishing-as-a-service platforms.

The searches were carried out at 12 searches at locations in Dublin, Kildare and Waterford on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of Operation Stargrew.

Stargrew targeted individual­s suspected of involvemen­t in organized fraud, where bulk “phishing” or “smishing” text messages are sent out, designed to deceive people into providing their personal data and credential­s for the purposes of fraud.

Many of these purport to be from banks and service providers.

This year-long operation, coordinate­d at the internatio­nal level by Europol, resulted in the compromise of LabHost’s infrastruc­ture.

The LabHost platform, previously available on the open web, has been shut down, and now displays a law enforcemen­t splash page.


As part of the Irish operation, €42,000 in cash, €10,000 in cryptocurr­ency, 82 smartphone­s, 25 computers, nine tablet devices and a Rolex watch were seized.

An Garda Siochana said: “Two males were arrested during the course of the operation. One of the males arrested has been charged, and will appear before the courts at a later date.”

Approximat­ely 116 users are suspected of using this LabHost website and web service who have a connection to Ireland.

Gardai have now identified more than 150,000 instances of a person responding to a phishing link, and this link is suspected to be associated with the 116 users.

The above LabHost users were primarily targeting Irish residents (135,000 people) but have also targeted people in other countries including Australia, Finland, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Austria, Norway, Estonia and many other countries.

The typical wording of phishing text message infers that some action is promptly required on the behalf of the recipient of the message.

These smishing/phishing messages are designed to pressurise recipients to respond to the message, to prevent their bank being defrauded, or to prevent a bill from increasing, or to pay a bill such as a customs charges.

Text messages are sent to potential victims and, when the person clicks a link in the message, they are deceived into giving data to the criminals.

Once the victim clicks on the URL link, they are directed onto a fake website that resembles the genuine website.

 ?? ?? RAID: Gardai carry out search on house; (left) some of the seized cash; (above left) cops took over platform
RAID: Gardai carry out search on house; (left) some of the seized cash; (above left) cops took over platform
 ?? ?? SEARCH: Gardaí leave a premises with evidence bags
SEARCH: Gardaí leave a premises with evidence bags
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