Europol has led a sweep across six European countries in a crackdown on cybercriminals offering tools to smuggle malware into legitimate-looking software.
Between 5 and 9 June, six suspect members of the cybercrime ring have been arrested and a further 36 were interviewed in connection with the operation.
According to Europol, the suspects are believed to be part of a counter anti-virus platform and crypter service.
The group is suspected to have offered a number of tools able to circumvent traditional anti-virus software when targeting victim PCs, as well as a crypter service, which can be used to hide malware in source code to avoid tools including keyloggers, Remote Access Trojans (RATs) and viruses from being detected.
The operation, dubbed Neuland, was led by the Kriminalinspektion Mayen (DE), together with the Europol European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT).
In the first phase of the task, Europol identified the operators behind the counter anti-virus and crypter service, as well as two German customers. According to German law enforcement, a 22-year-old was among those arrested, while 170 suspects are on the books — leading to 175 apartments and offices being searched.
The average age of the 170 suspects is only 23 years of age.
A total of 201 PCs and laptops, 84 smartphones, 130 external hard disks and numerous other external storage devices were seized. In the second stage, international customers were traced. To make matters worse for the suspects, drugs were also discovered — which will potentially land many of them in more hot water.
While some arrests have been made and a lot of electronic devices have been seized, the investigation is still ongoing.
In May, Europol made almost 30 arrests in relation to an ATM jackpotting scheme in which criminals would drill down into ATMs, compromise their software, and dispense cash.