Botched crypto assault lands three British men in jail – Krebs on Security


Three men in the UK were arrested this month after police responding to an attempted break-in to a residence stopped their car as they fled the scene. Authorities found weapons and a police uniform in the trunk, and say the trio intended to assault a local man and force him to hand over virtual currencies.

Shortly after 11pm on September 6, a resident of the common area of ​​Spalding in the district of Lincolnshire, UK, telephoned police to say three men were acting suspiciously and had jumped a nearby fence.

“The three men fled in a VW Golf and were quickly arrested nearby,” it read. A declaration speak Lincolnshire Constabulary. “The car was searched by officers who found a fake firearm, a taser, a baseball bat and a police uniform in the trunk.”

Thomas Green23, Rayhan Miah23, and Leonardo DeVinci24 were all charged with possession of weapons, and “with intent to cause loss to another for making an unwarranted demand for Crypto Currency from a person.”

KrebsOnSecurity has learned that the defendants were at Spalding Common to pay a surprise visit to a 19-year-old hacker known as “Discoli”, “Disco Dog” and “Chinese”. In December 2020, Discoli took credit for hacking and leaking the user database of OGUsers, a forum overrun with people looking to buy, sell and trade access to social media accounts. compromise.

Reached via Telegram, Discoli confirmed police believe the trio were trying to break into his Spalding Common home, and that one of them was wearing a police uniform when they approached his residence.

“They were obvious they were fake cops, so much so that one of our neighbors called,” Discoli said in an instant message. “That call led to the arrests. Their intention was to steal/blackmail the crypto, I just happened not to be home at the time.

Lincolnshire Police declined to comment for this story, citing an ongoing investigation.

Discoli said he did not know any of the accused men, but believes they were hired by one of his enemies. And he said his would-be attackers didn’t specifically target him.

“They had a list of people they wanted to hit consecutively as far as I could tell,” he said.

The foiled robbery is the latest example of how members of some hacking communities target each other with physical violence, making a standing offer to pay thousands of dollars to anyone in the target’s area who agrees to carry out the robberies. attacks.

Last month, a 21-year-old New Jersey man was arrested and charged with harassment as part of a federal investigation into groups of cybercriminals who settle scores by hiring people to carry out physical attacks on their rivals.

Prosecutors say Patrick McGovern-Allen recently participated in several such schemes, including firing a handgun at a house in Pennsylvania and burning down a residence in another part of the state with a Molotov cocktail.

McGovern-Allen and the three British defendants are part of an online community that is at the forefront of a dangerous escalation in coercion and intimidation tactics increasingly used by competing cybercriminal groups to steal from each other cryptocurrencies and control their rivals.

The Telegram chat channels where these young men transact each have hundreds or even thousands of members, and some of the most exciting solicitations on these communities are job postings for in-person assignments and tasks that the one can find if one searches for posts titled “So close to home”, or “IRL job” – short for “in real life”.

A number of these classifieds are used to perform “brickings”, where someone is hired to visit a specific address and throw a brick through the target’s window. Indeed, prior to McGovern-Allen’s arrest, his alleged Telegram persona bragged about performing multiple bricks for pay.

Many of the people involved in paying others to carry out these physical attacks also frequently participate in Telegram chat channels focused solely on SIM swapping, a crime in which identity thieves hijack someone’s mobile phone number. a target and use it to take control of the victim’s online miscellaneous. accounts and identities.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of people currently targeted for bricks and other actual physical assaults via Telegram tend to be other cybercriminals involved in SIM swapping crimes (or individuals on the periphery of this scene ).

The UK is home to a number of young men accused of stealing millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies via SIM card swapping. Joseph James O’Connor, aka “Plugwalk Joe”, was arrested in Spain in July 2021 on an FBI warrant on 10 counts of unauthorized computer access and cyberbullying. US investigators say O’Connor also played a pivotal role in the 2020 Twitter intrusion, where the Twitter accounts of top celebrities and public figures were coerced into tweeting links to cryptocurrency scams. . O’Connor is currently fighting extradition to the United States.

Robert Lewis Barr, a 25-year-old Scotsman who allegedly stole over $8 million worth of crypto, was arrested on FBI warrant last year and is also fighting his extradition. US investigators say Barr SIM traded a US bitcoin broker in 2017 while living with his mother, and he spent much of the stolen funds hosting lavish parties in luxury rented flats in central Glasgow.

In many ways, these violence-as-a-service incidents are a natural extension of “swatting,” in which fake bomb threats, hostage-takings, and other violent scenarios were phoned in to police in the as part of a scheme to trick them into visiting potentially deadly places. force on the address of a target. Prosecutors say Barr and O’Connor have a habit of crushing enemies and SIM-swapping victims.

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