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5 Australians arrested as part of global sting operation

An international police operation involving the Australian Federal Police has led to the arrest of 37 cyber criminals.

user icon David Hollingworth
Thu, 18 Apr 2024
5 Australians arrested as part of global sting operation
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A Europol-coordinated international police operation, with local assistance provided by the Australian Federal Police’s Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Centre, has led to the arrests of five Australians and 32 other individuals from around the world.

The alleged perpetrators were part of a community of around 10,000 cyber criminals using the LabHost phishing platform – a “one-stop shop”, in the platform’s own words, for creating phishing campaigns.

The Australian arrests involved more than 200 AFP, state, and territory officers executing 22 search warrants across five states – 14 of which were in Victoria. The search warrants led to the arrest of an Adelaide man and a Melbourne man, allegedly users of LabHost, for cyber crime offences, and three more Melbourne men for drug-related crimes.


The overall operation saw LabHost’s domain taken down, while the Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Centre was responsible for taking down 207 servers hosting phishing sites created by the platform. The sites in question were fake versions of real sites representing major banks, government agencies, and other “major organisations”.

LabHost allowed its users to not only create and host fake sites – signing up cost a minimum of $270 per month – but to also distribute texts and emails to victims, prompting them to give up bank details and other important personal data.

The platform was created in Canada in 2021 but has since attracted a global criminal community, with Australians thought to be in the top three users.

AFP acting Assistant Commissioner Cyber Command Chris Goldsmid said that the arrests, and the scale of the LabHost operation, highlights the very real threat of phishing operations.

“LabHost alone had the potential to cause $28 million in harm to the Australians through the sale of stolen Australian credentials,” acting Assistant Commissioner Goldsmid said in a statement.

“In addition to financial losses, victims of phishing attacks are subject to ongoing security risks and criminal offending, including identity takeovers, extortion and blackmail.

“LabHost is yet another example of the borderless nature of cyber crime and the takedown reinforces the powerful outcomes that can be achieved through a united, global law enforcement front.

“Australians who have used LabHost to steal data should not expect to remain anonymous. Authorities have obtained a vast amount of evidence during this investigation, and we are working to identify anyone who has used this platform to target innocent victims.”

Professor of Practice Nigel Phair - of the Department of Software Systems & Cybersecurity, Faculty of Information Technology, at Monash University - believes the arrests are a cause for celebration.

“This is a great day not just for Australian policing, but also the international coordination of cyber crime investigations," Phair told Cyber Daily via email.

“These types of investigations are very important as the emergence of cybercrime-as-a-service platforms like LabHost not only proliferate, but also reduce the barriers to entry for cyber criminals.

“This investigation also demonstrates there are plenty of cyber criminals located in Australia, making it easier for Australian police to combat this ever-growing type of crime.”

UPDATED 18/04/24 to add additional commentary.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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