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Zeus Gang Blags £6m From UK Bank Accounts

Eric is a veteran British tech journalist, currently editing ChannelBiz for NetMediaEurope. With expertise in security, the channel, and Britain’s startup culture, through his TechBritannia initiative

The Zeus Trojan is rapidly becoming public enemy number one as London police arrest online banking hackers

The Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) has arrested 19 people suspected of using the Zeus Trojan to launder money and steal £6 million from online bank customers over the last three months.

The group comprised 15 men and four women, with ages ranging from 23 to 47, located in various parts of London. The arrests resulted from cooperation between police officers, computer experts and banking representatives working together as a “virtual task force”. The team tracked the fraudsters for three months but the gang may have been in operation longer.

Thousands Of Computers Exposed

Detective chief inspector Terry Wilson of the PCeU, a division of London’s Metropolitan Police, told the BBC that the amount stolen was a current estimate and that he expected the total to “increase considerably” as the investigation continues.

He said that the gang had harvested log-in details used by customers of various UK banks by introducing the Zeus program onto thousands of computers. This information was then used to steal money and to transfer and remove further sums into the accounts as part of a “laundering” process. Laundering is a way of using financial transactions to conceal the source and destination of illegally gained money.

The arrested group are being held at various London police stations where they have been questioned on suspicion of fraud, money laundering and offences under the Computer Misuse Act. Two of those held were also suspected of being in possession of a firearm.

“We believe we have disrupted a highly organised criminal network, which has used sophisticated methods to siphon large amounts of cash from many innocent people’s accounts, causing immense personal anxiety and significant financial harm – which of course banks have had to repay at considerable cost to the economy,” Wilson told the BBC.