Operation Stargrew and LabHost

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Operation Stargrew and LabHost

In various reports today, it has been confirmed that a global operation (Operation Stargrew), co-ordinated by Europol, has led to UK arrests at Manchester, Luton, Essex and London airports.

Europol has reported:

“This week, law enforcement from 19 countries severely disrupted one of the world’s largest phishing-as-a-service platform, known as LabHost … Between Sunday 14 April and Wednesday 17 April a total of 70 addresses were searched across the world, resulting in the arrest of 37 suspects. This includes the arrest of 4 individuals in the United Kingdom linked to the running of the site, including the original developer of the service.”

Whilst “Europol has supported this case since September 2023”, the first arrests occurred this week. JMW Solicitors were immediately contacted to assist those arrested on the first strike day (16 April).

Is it said that Operation Stargrew targeted individuals suspected to be involved in organised fraud, where bulk “Phishing” or “Smishing” text messages are sent out, which are designed to trick people into providing their personal data and credentials for the purposes of fraud (otherwise known as “fullz data”).

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, LabHost and all linked fraudulent sites were disrupted by the Metropolitan Police Service and replaced with messages announcing their seizure.

The Metropolitan Police have provided guidance explaining “How phishing works”, “7 red flags for spotting fraudulent emails” and “5 tips for spotting a fishing email”.

Those who are suspected to be involved in such matters may be arrested, or subject to Voluntary Attendance interviews, for an array of offences, including Conspiracy offences, Fraud offences and Money Laundering offences. Further investigations are ongoing in relation to the conversion of criminal property into cryptoassets.

Phishing attacks can be highly sophisticated and very convincing, making it imperative that individuals be cautious and take all steps to ensure the authenticity of any requests for personal information they receive, especially if they are unexpected or come from unknown sources.

Investigations within the UK are likely to be led by Regional Organised Crime Units in conjunction with the National Crime Agency.

On 31 January 2024, the Crown Prosecution Service (‘CPS’) updated their Cybercrime Guidance which provides guidance and an overview as to what offences the CPS may consider.

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