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DDoS blackmailers busted in cross-border swoop

Cyber hoodlums targeted gold and silver traders

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Chinese and Hong Kong cops are hailing another success in their cross-border cyber policing efforts with the scalp of a high profile DDoS blackmail gang which targeted gold, silver and securities traders in the former British colony.

Six cyber hoodlums were arrested on the mainland in Hunan, Hubei, Shanghai and other locations at the end of June, according to a report in local Hong Kong rag The Standard.

Some 16 Hong Kong-based firms including the Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange were targeted in the scheme designed to blackmail them to the tune of 460,000 yuan (£46,200).

The gang apparently threatened to cripple their victims’ web operations with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks if they didn’t cough up.

Four of the targeted firms transferred funds totalling 290,000 yuan (£29,150) into designated bank accounts in mainland China, the report said.

A source also told The Standard that some of the victims may have been involved in some shady dealings themselves, which made them more reluctant to seek police help.

Roy Ko, centre manager of the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team (HKCERT) told The Reg that the arrests are an indication of improving cross-border cyber policing efforts.

“Working with counterparts cross border is always a challenge because of different practices, languages, different time zones and so on. Usually, HK and the mainland maintain a good working relationship, just like the HKCERT and CNCERT,” he said.

“Because we are in the same time zone, the response is usually quicker than working with the US, for example, where we have to wait until the next day to get a response.”

Ko also warned that the attacks show this form of cyber threat is still a popular one for avaricious criminal gangs.

“Firms have to assess whether they are a probable target of such an attack – ie whether they rely heavily on the internet to do business – and then prepare countermeasures,” he added.

“Subscribing to an anti-DDoS service may be part of the protection strategy in addition to anti-malware, firewall, etc.”

Hong Kong businesses have been warned before that they’re fair game to hackers from neighbouring China.

Experts told El Reg last month that multinationals in the Special Administrative Region of China cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to cyber security. ®

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