The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany’s federal criminal police, raided three homes on Thursday, September 29th, in the course of an investigation of a cyber criminal operation the BKA says netted approximately €4,000,000 from its victims by using phishing tactics. Two suspects were arrested and charged; the disposition of the third individual will depend upon the results of further investigation.

statement by the BKA (provided by BleepingComputer) explained the nature of the fraud, which depended upon unusually faithful and convincing spoofed communications that misrepresented themselves as being from the victims’ banks. The emails told the victims that changes to the bank’s security system would affect their accounts, and that they should follow a link to arrange continued access to their accounts. The link led to a convincing phishing page. “There, the phishing victims were asked to enter their login data and a current TAN [Transaktionsnummer–a number associated with a particular transaction], which in turn enabled the fraudsters to see all the data in the account of the respective victim – including the amount and availability of credit.” Further engagement with the victims induced them to give up additional TANs, which the criminals used to withdraw the victims’ funds.

The scam is interesting in other ways. For one thing, the criminals used distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against banking websites as misdirection for their imposture. The legitimate sites may have suffered from reduced availability, but the phishing sites, of course, remained accessible. Another interesting aspect of the case is the criminals’ alleged employment of “other cyber criminals who sell various forms of cyber attacks as ‘Crime-as-a-Service’” (the BKA uses the English phrase) “on the dark web.” Some details are being withheld pending further investigation.

The amount the BKA alleges the criminals stole is striking. €4,000,000 is the equivalent, at current exchange rates, to £3,520,000 or $3,920,000. This particular crime seems to have affected mostly individuals, but its scale and approach suggest that organizations could be vulnerable to similar scams. New-school security awareness training can help your employees cope with this and other forms of social engineering.