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US and Europe announce major crackdown on cybercrime 

The US and Europe have independently announced takedowns of cybercrime networks that defrauded people out of billions of dollars.

Both the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and Europol have each claimed their operations as the largest takedown of a “botnet” network globally.

Cybercriminals use botnets to commandeer computers and install malicious software, which can then collect data, send spam, or delete personal information without the owner’s knowledge.

Europol, Europe’s law enforcement agency, has arrested four people and identified eight fugitives, who will be added to Europe’s “most wanted” list. 

Europol stated it has identified the ringleaders of several cybercrime networks that use botnets. Arrests were made in Armenia and Ukraine, and servers were taken down in various countries, including the UK, the US, and Germany. Over 2,000 websites are now under European law enforcement control. 

One suspect allegedly collected more than €69 million (£58m) in cryptocurrency through ransomware attacks, which lock victims out of their computers until a fee is paid. 

The malicious software primarily infiltrated devices via phishing attempts and compromised websites. Europol’s ongoing operation, dubbed Operation Endgame, plans further crackdowns.

At the same time, in the US, authorities arrested Chinese national YunHe Wang and seized assets including a Ferrari, luxury watches, and 21 properties. 

The DoJ accused Wang of using a botnet to hack into over 19 million devices across nearly 200 countries. Nicole Argentieri, principal deputy assistant attorney general, stated that Wang created malware that compromised millions of residential computers worldwide and sold access to cyber criminals. 

This access was used for a variety of crimes, including fraud, child exploitation, harassment, and bomb threats. The DoJ estimated that more than 500,000 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims, resulting in a loss of over $5.9 billion, were sent from computers under his control. 

Wang allegedly used the proceeds to purchase $60 million worth of luxury assets, including a Ferrari, a Rolls-Royce, two BMWs, and several watches, as well as properties in the US, St Kitts and Nevis, China, Singapore, Thailand, and the UAE.

Wang has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, substantive computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 65 years in prison. The investigation involved collaboration with law enforcement agencies in Singapore and Thailand, as well as technology giant Microsoft.

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