Six Quebecers were arrested on Tuesday during an operation carried out in eighteen countries against one of the largest hacker sites in the world. The Quebec suspects were considered so important that the FBI sent a special sniffer dog to Montreal to help the Sûreté du Québec.
“We see that it is possible, joint investigations with other countries, and that we overcome these sites which are there to defraud us,” rejoiced Lieutenant Jean Le Bel, head of investigations on cybercrime at the Sûreté du Québec, in an interview with La Presse on Wednesday.
The Quebec police force participated on Tuesday in Operation Cookie Monster, an international effort coordinated by the FBI to shut down the Genesis Market site, an online market where access to profiles of infected victims was sold which allowed access to their various accounts: email, social media, banking, employer-related business access.
Four men and two women, believed to be “superusers” who acquired many stolen computer identities, were arrested. They could be charged with unauthorized use of a computer, but the investigation is continuing to see if they committed other offenses such as fraud.
Four searches took place, mainly in the greater Montreal area. For the occasion, the FBI had dispatched one of its representatives to the Sûreté du Québec command post and a special sniffer dog, Iris, who detected hidden computer media during one of the searches. This Labrador is one of the few police dogs in the world trained for this purpose. He is able to spot a small USB key in the clutter of an apartment. It was deployed in Quebec given the large number of buyers of fraudulent profiles linked to Genesis Market.
“Unfortunately, Quebec was strongly represented,” notes Lieutenant Jean Le Bel.
The FBI says that since going live in March 2018, Genesis Market has offered for sale the data of more than 1.5 million computers infected with a virus that allowed hackers to reproduce the entire environment in a special browser. of the victim’s navigation: the sites to which she was already connected or those for which she had saved her password so that it is automatically entered at each connection, the associated email accounts, the witness files (cookies) which allowed her to be recognized.
The “profiles” of users for sale included those working in the financial sector, critical infrastructure, and several government agencies, but in Quebec, buyers seemed primarily interested in engaging in fraud, not accessing government information. or trade secrets. “The objective seemed to be financial gain,” confirms Sergeant Marc-André Piché, of the Sûreté du Québec.
The site, whose address was shared by invitation, was not even hidden on the hidden web (dark web) and the use of the tools offered was disconcertingly easy, the FBI said in a press release.
“The most disturbing thing is that the skill level required was relatively low. It did not take a very advanced technical level to handle these tools, despite their sophistication,” confirms Sergeant Marc-André Piché.
In addition to the 6 people arrested, the police encountered 55 “subjects of interest” in Quebec during the day on Tuesday. These are people whose names came up during the investigation. Some could become suspects as the analysis of the file continues.
It was the FBI, which had been monitoring Genesis Market for some time, which contacted the Sûreté du Québec in February to participate in the major international strike against pirates. The RCMP and other Canadian police forces were also involved in yesterday’s roundup, during which the site was taken down.
The American authorities have little hope of arresting the leaders of the network, given their geographical location: they would be in Russia or in countries allied with Russia, according to available information.
As for the victims, they are from everywhere. “There are victims all over the world, so for sure there are some in Quebec,” Sergeant Piché said.
The FBI on Wednesday released the address of a partner website that allows worried people to check if their email address is on the list of victims.