Six people have been arrested in raids in the UK and the Netherlands in relation to a €24 million ($27 million) cryptocurrency theft involving ‘typosquatting’, according to a statement from Europol. The five men and one woman were apprehended following a 14-month investigation that involved five separate agencies across the two countries and resulted in “a large number of devices, equipment and valuable assets” being seized, thanks in part to use of the UK’s newest recruits in the fight against cybercrime – two cyber dogs.
Though little information was given about the arrests, it appears from the arrests that the website was built and operated in England, where three of the suspects were arrested on suspicion of committing computer misuse as well as money-laundering offences, while the Dutch suspects were arrested on money laundering charges only. The operation began when a single victim in the UK reported losing $22,000 worth of Bitcoin on the fake site in 2017, only for it to mushroom into the international operation that resulted in the arrests Tuesday morning.
What is Typosquatting?
The fraud utilized ‘typosquatting’, also known as URL hijacking, is the practice of creating a website that looks just like a popular, legitimate site and using it to lure people into sending money through it (for example, Gooogle.com instead of Google.com). This is in the hope that someone will mistype the address and land on what the think is the right page. In this case the thieves set up a false site that looked like an undisclosed crypto exchange, allowing hackers access to the wallets of over 4,000 people in 12 countries. Whether the crypto can still be recovered is as yet unknown, but it is likely that much has been laundered out already, making it impossible to recover.