The cybercrime unit of the Nigeria Police Force arrested a 37-year-old Nigerian man in an international operation spanning four continents, coordinated and facilitated by the recently created Africa operations desk within INTERPOL’s cybercrime directorate.
The suspect is alleged to have run a transnational cybercrime syndicate that launched mass phishing campaigns and business email compromise schemes targeting companies and individual victims.
Law enforcement and cybersecurity firms have witnessed the striking increase in many forms of cybercrime in recent years, exploiting the context of COVID-19 and forming what INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock has called a “parallel pandemic”.
INTERPOL’s Africa desk, called the African Joint Operation against Cybercrime (AFJOC) and funded by the U.K. Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, was launched in May 2021 to boost the capacity of 49 African countries to fight cybercrime.
That same month, the police operation, codenamed Delilah, was initiated by an intelligence referral from several INTERPOL partners from the private sector: Group-IB, Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 and Trend Micro.
The intelligence was enriched by analysts within INTERPOL’s Cyber Fusion Center, which brings together experts from law enforcement and industry to turn information on criminal activities into actionable intelligence. INTERPOL’s AFJOC desk then referred the intelligence to Nigeria and followed up with multiple case coordination meetings supported by law enforcement in Australia, Canada and the United States.
Investigators began to map out and track the alleged malicious online activities of the suspect, thanks to ad hoc support from private sector firm CyberTOOLBELT, as well as tracking his physical movements as he traveled from one country to another. Nigerian law enforcement successfully apprehended the suspect at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.