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Major operation in Africa yields 14 arrests and disrupts thousands of illicit cyber networks

23COM002986 - CYBER_ Africa Cyber Surge II Operation_Infographic_2023-08_v3

DAR ES SALAM, Tanzania – A collaborative effort between INTERPOL and AFRIPOL spanning 25 African countries has resulted in the apprehension of 14 suspected cybercriminals and the identification of 20,674 suspicious cyber networks. This operation sheds light on the escalating digital insecurity and cyber threats that have permeated the region, unveiling a network of illegal activities linked to financial losses surpassing USD 40 million.

The extensive four-month campaign, dubbed Africa Cyber Surge II, was initiated in April 2023 with a primary focus on uncovering cybercriminals and compromised infrastructure. Orchestrated under the stewardship of INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Directorate, in partnership with the INTERPOL Africa Cybercrime Operations desk and INTERPOL’s Support Programme for the African Union (ISPA) in collaboration with AFRIPOL, the operation sought to streamline cooperation between African law enforcement agencies. Its ultimate goal was to combat and disrupt various cyber menaces, including cyber extorsion, phishing, business email compromise, and online scams.

Integral to the operation’s success was the collaboration between international law enforcement, national authorities, and private sector partners. Through actionable intelligence provided by Group-IB and Uppsala Security, in addition to active involvement from INTERPOL and AFRIPOL, on-the-ground operational support was instrumental in achieving tangible outcomes.

Several notable achievements emerged from the operation, underscoring the value of cross-border cooperation:

  • In Cameroon, three individuals were apprehended following a tip-off from Côte d’Ivoire regarding an online scam valued at USD 850,000, involving fraudulent art sales.
  • Nigerian authorities arrested a suspect accused of defrauding a victim in The Gambia.
  • In Mauritius, two money mules involved in scams initiated through messaging platforms were detained.
  • Gambia’s proactive efforts led to the takedown of 185 malicious Internet Protocols (IPs).
  • Cameroonian authorities successfully dismantled two Darknet sites.
  • Kenya witnessed the shutdown of 615 malware hosters.
  • INTERPOL distributed over 150 analytical reports to participating countries, providing intelligence and insights into specific cyber threats, enabling targeted investigative and disruptive actions.

The operation’s reports, developed in collaboration with partners Group-IB, Trend Micro, Kaspersky, and Coinbase, contained crucial information about malicious activities:

  • 3,786 malicious command and control servers
  • 14,134 victim IPs linked to data stealer cases
  • 1,415 phishing links and domains
  • 939 scam IPs
  • Over 400 additional malicious URLs, IPs, and botnets.

Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General, emphasized the operation’s impact on strengthening cybercrime departments in member countries and fostering partnerships with essential stakeholders. He stated, “This will further contribute to reducing the global impact of cybercrime and protecting communities in the region.”

The operation unveiled a clear link between financial crime and cybercrime, prompting participating countries to adopt a “follow the money” approach. Preceding the operation was a one-week tabletop exercise in Tanzania, focusing on cybercrime and cryptocurrency investigations. Officials from 20 African countries were equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to execute the operation successfully.

AFRIPOL’s Acting Executive Director, Ambassador Jalel Chelba, highlighted the urgency for public and private sectors to collaborate in preventing cybercriminal exploitation of digital systems, ICT, and Artificial Intelligence. Coordinated operations like Cyber Surge are pivotal in disrupting criminal networks and establishing comprehensive protection measures.

Africa Cyber Surge II was made possible through funding by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, the German Federal Foreign Office, and the Council of Europe.

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