KARACHI: The three hackers said to be among the top 10 most wanted cyber criminals in the world, who were arrested here on Feb 14 for causing huge losses to a local cellular network operator and a US telecom giant, had invested millions of rupees in real estate and different businesses over the past few years, it emerged on Wednesday.
Faisal Aziz, his brother Noor Aziz and their accomplice Farhan-ul-Arshad had been operating an ‘international cybercrime racket’ and were caught after investigations against their illegal activities set alarm bells ringing in 11 countries, said Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) deputy director Mir Mazhar Jabbar.
The investigators believed that some Rs200 million deal had been struck between them and their partners in the international cybercrime racket, said FIA director Shahid Hayat.
He said they had several local and foreign accounts in banks across the world which they operated for the illegal activities. The suspects, he said, received payments to their local bank accounts from their clients in the Philippines, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Singapore, Italy, Malaysia and various other countries.
Record retrieved through the emails and the cellphone of Noor Aziz revealed some details of the properties that he had acquired during the past few years, the FIA director said.
“The suspect has some 46 plots in Bahria Town and two plots in Saharanpur Society of Malir. He is also an owner of a plot in Port Qasim and invested Rs40 million in different businesses,” he said.
“We have so far traced their 50 bank accounts locally. The investigations are not over yet. It was a huge task as it involves some 11 countries and has a vast spectrum. It requires detailed investigation that may take extraordinary time,” he added.
He said the FIA had registered a case (10/2015) against the suspects under Sections 36/37 of the Electronic Transactions Ordinance, 2002, Anti-money Laundering Act of 2010 and several sections of the Pakistan Penal Code on a complaint of Warid Telecom.
“The three suspects caused some Rs32 million Warid Telecom between September 2011 and August 2014,” FIA director Shahid Hayat told Dawn.
“The modus operandi of their operation was complicated and involved too much technological awareness. They made calls to PRS (Premium Rate Services) number destinations from Karachi to different countries of Europe and the Gulf region.”
By doing this, he said, they generated the traffic on various PRS (Premium Rates Service) numbers by gaining unauthorised and illegal access to Warid’s cellular system. They also got access to use the cellular company’s airtime and international roaming facility, he added.
“Actually these PRS are dedicated for a kind of value added services,” said Mr Hayat. “If they are dialled, the caller hears the advertisements, songs, adult entertainment or commercials etc. The list is so long. Since they [three suspects] got illegal access to the cellular company network, they made agreements with their foreigner international cyber criminals for putting and generating traffic on these PRS numbers against millions of rupees.”
“Noor Aziz was the mastermind of this cybercrime racket,” he said, citing initial findings of the investigation conducted by the team led by the FIA deputy director Mir Mazhar Jabbar.
“They all are residents of Federal B Area.
“[Noor Aziz] while in collusion has also hacked PBX System of the US AT&T to generate traffic on PRS numbers. It caused more than half a million dollars losses to the company – it stands around US $603,045.” As the company was one of the US telecom giants, he said, the situation pushed the investigators to pursue the case at a fast pace and finally they spotted the Pakistani hackers involved in the activity, he said.
“At local front, the FIA investigators here too were looking into Warid Telecom’s complaint and then came a request from the Interpol as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation was pursuing the case with them. The arrest is a major development in the sense that the three were among the top 10 most wanted cyber criminal across the globe,” he added.
Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2015