Authorities in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo announced the arrest of multiple individuals identified as members of a gang dedicated to stealing and hacking iPhone devices in order to access victims’ online banking accounts and steal all their money. Authorities consider this to be a highly sophisticated criminal group, capable of bypassing the complex security mechanisms implemented by Apple, including multi-factor authentication, access passwords and biometric recognition.
This criminal group was not limited to stealing iPhone devices, as they were also interested in obtaining iPads and smartphones with recent versions of the Android operating system.
Roberto Monteiro, delegate of the Police of Sao Paulo, mentions that this gang unlocks the stolen devices using tools available on the dark web, and then extracts as much information as possible from the device, including credentials for access to banking platforms: “From the moment an iPhone is unlocked, hackers try to determine what is the most important information stored on the device”, mentions Monteiro.
During the last weeks, the local newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo gave an important follow-up to the reports related to this hacking gang, pointing out that its activity extends throughout the central region of the city, even reaching territories bordering other states. One of the most notorious incidents related to these attackers is related to an Uber driver, who saw the R67,000 (more than $12,000 USD) in his bank account disappear after a couple of young individuals stole his iPhone.
After multiple reports the Brazilian police began to implement Operation Meucci, named after the Italian Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci, inventor of the closest antecedent to the modern telephone. One of the first steps of this operation involved the detection of potential suspects. After initial inquiries, authorities determined that one of the main operators of this gang was an individual from Guinea-Bissau, responsible for a circuit of surveillance cameras in the gang’s area of operation. These activities were carried out from a building in the center of the city, which functioned as a base of operations for hackers.
A series of undercover surveillance operations allowed authorities to identify some individuals close to the main suspect, which eventually turned into obtaining arrest warrants. Sao Paulo police also conducted raids, during which multiple stolen smartphones and other electronic devices allegedly used to unlock the devices and extract sensitive information were seized.
The authorities complied with a total of 17 arrest warrants, thus materializing more than 6 months of investigation involving 80 civilian agents, 38 vehicles and 10 search teams.
Police IT investigation area mention that the method employed by this gang is new and very efficient. This process involves changing the device chips, obtaining useful information to access the desired information, and then restoring the device to its original state.
Agents of the Research Department of Sao Paulo mention that in past years there had already been reports of groups capable of unlocking smartphones, especially iPhone devices, using advanced software variants. The arrest of this gang seems to confirm the existence of this technology.
To learn more about information security risks, malware variants, vulnerabilities and information technologies, feel free to access the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) websites.
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