UK police have arrested 21 people and warned another 69 individuals in a crackdown on cybercrime, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Friday.
All 21 arrested are men aged between 18-38, the NCA said in a statement, “nine were detained on suspicion of Computer Misuse Act offences, nine for Fraud offences, and three are under investigation for both.”
The NCA identified the targets of the operation, shared intelligence with its partners, coordinated the five-week operation, conducted 11 of the arrests, and seized over £41,000 ($54,735) in bitcoin.
“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,” said Paul Creffield from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit.
“The NCA and UK law enforcement take such offences extremely seriously and they can result in huge financial loss to victims,” Creffield added.
The operation, launched on Nov. 16, targeted UK-based customers of WeLeakInfo—a site that the NCA said, “hosted 12 billion stolen credentials from over 10,000 data breaches before it was taken down in January 2020 following an NCA investigation.”
The NCA said these customers paid to access the site so they could download personal data and use them in illegal activities including cyberattacks and fraud.
Cyber Prevent officers visited another 69 people, aged between 16-40, in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
“We were also able to pinpoint those on the verge of breaking the law and warn them that should they continue, they could face a criminal conviction,” Creffield said.
“Cyber skills are in huge demand and there are great prospects in the tech industry for those who choose to use their skills legally.”
Of the 69 individuals visited, 60 were served with cease and desist notices.
Creffield warned people not to use the same password on multiple sites and said that more advice on cybersecurity can be found on the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) website.
According to NCSC, online shoppers in England and Wales who fell victim to fraud lost an average of £775 ($1,035) per person during the last Christmas season.
“This year we have spent more time online than ever before. Whether it be working or shopping online, criminals and others often see the internet as another means to cause harm,” Penny Mordaunt, the Paymaster General, said on Dec. 4, as the NCSC and other government departments kicked off a Cyber Aware campaign.
She urged people to be on guard and take practical Cyber Aware actions to safely work, shop, and socialise online.