Dutch police announced on Thursday that they had arrested three young men accused of stealing tens of millions of sensitive personal data and selling it to criminal gangs.
Two men, aged 21, and another, aged 18, were arrested last month after a detailed investigation that began in 2021, police said in a statement.
The investigation came under fire after a major Dutch company was charged with data theft and extortion.
“As the investigation progressed, it became clear that thousands of small and medium-sized businesses and institutions, both domestically and internationally, were targeted for data hacking, theft and sales,” police said.
They added that the suspect’s methods were “sophisticated” and he hacked into the company’s computer system before sending a threatening email demanding a ransom in Bitcoin.
“The suspects threatened to destroy their digital infrastructure or expose sensitive data if the company did not pay.”
Many companies paid ransoms, often above €100,000 ($105,000), and in one particular case, €700,000.
“In many cases, the stolen data was sold anyway, even though the companies paid for it.” The main suspect is that in the last few years he has earned 2.5 million euros.
A range of businesses, including the hospitality industry, training centers, webshops and companies “belonging to critical infrastructure,” police said.
“The data included dates of birth, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, vehicle registration numbers, ID and passport numbers,” police said.
“This information is worth a lot of money to criminals,” police said, adding that “the impact on victims will be immense.”
This was true not only of companies that were blackmailed, but also those targeted from information sold to criminal gangs.
“We no longer have to search for victims on the street. A single push of a button on the back of the computer is enough,” police said.
Police say the suspect will remain in prison while the investigation continues.
The arrest follows a similar case last year in which an Amsterdam man was arrested for selling online data of tens of millions of people online.
The arrest followed an investigation by Austrian police after a data set containing millions of names compiled from Austrian television and radio license providers appeared on a cybercrime forum.
Austrian police bought the dataset undercover, and police traced the online address to his home in Amsterdam.
https://www.expatica.com/nl/general/dutch-police-arrest-three-in-massive-data-theft-case-525962/ Dutch police arrest three in massive data theft case