Romanian phishing busts were years in the making

The FBI has been working since 2003 to crack down on Romanian phishers, a senior FBI official said Friday.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation spent years laying the groundwork for an investigation that led to the arrest of dozens of people involved in illegal phishing scams operated from Romania and the U.S., a senior FBI official said Friday.

Shawn Henry, who was appointed assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division earlier this week, said he began meeting with Romanian police and lawmakers, including the country's minister of technology and minister of justice, in 2003 to help tackle the country's growing cybercrime problem.

Romanian crime gangs were hurting U.S. banks by tricking customers into giving up account numbers and passwords on phony "phishing" Web sites, but Romanian officials soon realized that the problem was also affecting businesses at home, too, because the problem was so bad that some companies were simply blocking all Internet traffic from Romania.

"Just at the time they were trying to merge with the West and get into NATO ... the U.S. and other Western nations were shutting them down because of the threat of crime," Henry said. "If they did not take this problem seriously, they were going to be left in the dark."

Since then Romania has taken some major steps to crack down on cybercrime, he said, by adding new hacking laws and strengthening its ability to fight computer crime. "They really committed themselves to the problem."

In 2006, the Cyber Division sent six FBI agents to Bucharest to work with the Romanian National Police. Operation Cardkeeper, as the effort was called, led to 13 arrests and prompted the FBI to set up a task force last year, where agents have worked full time in Romania assisting local police with their cyber investigations.

This year the task force helped shut down major phishing operations in sweeps that were announced in May and July. Nearly 60 people in the U.S. and Romania were arrested.

Although the Cyber Division team has been doing excellent work, Romania remains a top source of phishing activity, according to Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics with the University of Alabama, Birmingham. "There are a lot of bad actors in Romania," he said.

But why Romania? According to Warner, the country has the dangerous combination of a shattered economy and institutional corruption that creates breeding grounds for cyber criminals the world over.

Romanian police told Henry that those arrested likely became phishers because they had the right combination of technical smarts and economic incentives. "Culturally they were good students in math, they were interested in technology, there was some degree of English speakers there," he said. "They were smart folks in a country that was just coming into its own, and I guess the intention was [to seize] an opportunity to expand on that."

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cybercrimephishingscams

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?