- SIM swapping is an identity theft technique is used to take over the mobile phone number of victims.
- This allows malicious actors to intercept the victims’ phone calls and SMS messages and later make attempts to access their bank accounts.
European authorities have managed to crack down on two cybercrime groups that were responsible for pilfering millions by employing the SIM swapping attack technique.
What is SIM swapping?
Also referred to as SIM hijacking, this identity theft technique is used to take over the mobile phone number of victims. This allows malicious actors to intercept the victims’ phone calls and SMS messages and later make attempts to access their bank accounts.
To perform SIM hijacking, hackers trick the victim’s wireless provider to swap the mobile phone number to a SIM card that is controlled by the attackers. This allows the attackers to receive any banking one-time passwords that are sent to the victim.
Eventually, the attackers use the online banking credentials to steal funds from the victims’ accounts.
How much money did the criminals make?
The two cybercriminal groups engaged in SIM hijacking fraud were arrested in Spain and Romania. The gang arrested from Spain had reportedly launched over 100 attacks, stealing between €6,000 (approximately $6700) and €137,000 (approximately $152,000) per attack. It is believed that they have stolen a total of over €3 million (approximately $3.3 million) from these attacks.
In Romania, authorities arrested a total of 14 members, who had used the technique to empty multiple bank accounts in Austria in early 2019. The cybercrime gang used stolen credentials and hijacked phone numbers to log into mobile banking applications and generate withdrawal transactions.
The cybercrime gang had supposedly stolen over half a million euros using this technique.
Fernando Ruiz, acting head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Center, said, fraudsters are always coming up with new ways to steal money from the accounts of unsuspecting victims.
“Although seemingly innocuous, SIM swapping robs victims of more than just their phones: SIM highjackers can empty your bank account in a matter of hours. Law enforcement is gearing up against this threat, with coordinated actions happening across Europe,” Ruiz added, SecurityWeek reported.