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French Nationals Arrested for 'Rex Mundi' Hacks

Europol announced this week that several French nationals were arrested in the past year on suspicion of being involved with Rex Mundi, a group that hacked into the systems of several organizations and attempted to blackmail them.

According to Europol, the alleged members of the hacker group were identified after in May 2017 they targeted a UK-based company. The cybercriminals stole significant amounts of customer data from the firm and demanded the payment of a bitcoin ransom of nearly €580,000 ($670,000) for not making the stolen files public or more than €825,000 ($776,000) for information on how the attack was carried out. The hackers also told the victim that the amounts would increase by €210,000 ($240,000) for each day the payment was delayed.

After the victim reported the attack to law enforcement, the UK’s Metropolitan Police, the French National Police and Europol teamed up to identify the hackers. “Within an hour, Europol’s 24/7 Operational Centre was able to link the available information to a French national,” Europol said.

Five suspects were arrested in June 2017, two were arrested in October 2017 and one was apprehended on May 18, 2018. All of the suspects are French nationals and they were all arrested by French police, except for the last arrest, which took place in Thailand.

The individual who was arrested last month by the Royal Thai Police is a 25-year-old developer. The suspects arrested in October 2017 were described as “hackers.” The “main suspect,” as Europol describes him, admitted blackmailing companies, but claimed to have used the dark web to hire someone to conduct the hacking.

Rex Mundi was active since at least 2012 and until 2015 it made many of its operations public in hopes of convincing victims to pay up. Its victims included AmeriCash Advance, Webassur, Drake International, Buy Way, Hoststar, Websolutions.it, Numericable, Habeas, AlfaNet, Domino’s Pizza, and the Swiss bank Banque Cantonale de Geneve (BCGE). Many of the hacker group’s victims were Belgian companies.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.