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Cops swoop on e-crime gangs after banks pool intelligence

Early success for new task force

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Two London-based cybercrime gangs have been busted, following an agreement by banks and credit card companies to share intelligence on network attacks and malware.

Early success for the new "virtual task force", which is set for public launch next week, comes after years of pressure from investigators frustrated at the lack of intelligence on the activities of cybercrime gangs.

The first swoop, dubbed "Operation Poplin" netted an Eastern European group working in South East London. Bank security staff detected them attempting to use trojans to steal money. The gang of 13 were arrested in April and face charges including money laundering and fraud.

In June an investigation using intelligence from the task force by the new Police Central e-Crime Unit, with FBI cooperation, saw nine arrests. "Operation Lumpfish" targeted a fraudulent music sales website which collected banking information for the gang.

Speaking at the Association of Chief Police Officers conference in Manchester today, Janet Williams, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Met's specialist crime directorate, said she expected the task force to allow a 15 and 30-fold increase in such targeted police activity.

"We have proved we can do this," she said.

"It's like a crime and disorder partnership, only one that actually works."

Researchers at Queen's University in Belfast and Chatham House in London will assist in the analysis of information shared via the virtual task force. ISPs are also cooperating, Williams said.

Banks and credit card companies have historically been very reluctant to share details of attacks against them, frustrating investigators and the security industry. Their secrecy stemmed from fears that widespread knowledge of their vulnerabilities could be exploited by criminals or competitors, and increase anxiety about online services among customers.

Financial services companies will not share all their security secrets via the virtual task force, but its forthcoming launch marks a significant step towards cooperation, Williams said. ®

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