INTERPOL hauls in alleged Nigerian cybercrime ringleader

Written by Tonya Riley

The cybercrime unit of the Nigeria Police Force alongside INTERPOL arrested a 37-year-old Nigerian man for allegedly running a massive cybercrime operation that used phishing campaigns and business email compromise schemes to scam companies and individual victims.

The arrest, announced Wednesday, follows a major global sting last year that resulted in the arrests of more than a dozen suspects allegedly tied to the notorious Nigerian crime ring, dubbed “SilverTerrier” by cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks. The group is believed to have targeted at least 50,000 victims since it first became active in 2014.

Researchers at Palo Alto Networks found more than 240 domains registered to aliases of the unnamed suspect. More than 50 of the domains were used to control malware.

Authorities initially tried to apprehend the suspect in 2021 but he fled, only to be detained when he attempted to re-enter Nigeria in March 2022. A Facebook account belonging to the suspect confirms he was connected online with three other SilverTerrier members arrested in 2021 and that he tried to off-load a Range Rover for approximately $13,969.84 in U.S. dollars according to Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42.

Business email compromise (BEC) and related email account compromise schemes resulted in nearly $2.4 billion in reported losses from victims in 2021, the most of any category reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.) In BEC fraud, hackers pose as a legitimate company employee either through a fake or stolen account to order unauthorized money transfers.

“I hope the results of Operation Delilah will stand as a reminder to cybercriminals across the world that law enforcement will continue to pursue them, and that this arrest will bring comfort to victims of the suspect’s alleged campaigns,” said Garba Baba Umar, assistant inspector general of the Nigeria Police Force and INTERPOL official.

The law enforcement agencies partnered with Group-IB, Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 and Trend Micro on Operation Delilah.

A spike in BEC scams has led to a major crackdown by U.S. and international law enforcement over the past year. In March, the FBI and global partners arrested 65 U.S. individuals allegedly involved with scamming more than $51 million from U.S. businesses. Arrests were also made in Nigeria, South Africa, Canada and Cambodia.

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