Police foil massive credit card extortion attempt

Police foil massive credit card extortion attempt

Former Leumi Card employees threatened to release information on millions of customers if the company didn’t fork over millions of dollars

Bank Leumi (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)
Bank Leumi (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Seven former and current employees at Leumi Card, one of Israel’s largest credit card providers, were arrested on suspicion of attempting to extort the company’s management and of threatening to release the private information of nearly 2,000,000 credit card holders to the internet, police cleared for publication Saturday.

An eighth suspect was also arrested.

According to police, the incident is considered one of the most serious cases of cyber crime in recent years, since a realization of the suspects’ threats would have resulted in grave financial repercussions and would have caused unprecedented damage to the Israeli economy.

Leumi Card reported the case to police two weeks ago, after one of the suspects, a man who had been fired from the company a year earlier, sent a threatening email to the Leumi Card management. According to the management, the suspect said he had collected private costumer information during the time of his employment and demanded millions of dollars in exchange for suppressing the sensitive details.

The suspect further threatened to sell the secret information to the highest bidder if his demands were not met, Ynet reported.

Following the alleged threats, police’s elite Lahav 433 cyber crime unit launched a covert investigation into the case and determined that the suspect had been assisted by at least seven more people, six of whom had worked or were still working at Leumi Card.

The names of five of the suspects were released early Sunday morning: Ziv Darin, Avraham David, Assaf Mor, Elad Abulafia and Moti Shilon. The Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Lezion extended their remand by five days until Thursday.

Six of the suspects, police said, hacked a main computer at a large banking corporation and copied sensitive files.

Seven suspects were arrested in several Israeli cities, and an eighth, the man who sent the threats, was detained in Thailand in a joint Israeli-Thai police operation. He was later transferred back to Israel.

Police were still investigating whether any more people were involved in the affair, and whether the private information had already been obtained by a third party. According to Israel Radio, because of the potential for serious damage to the Israeli economy that this incident holds, the investigation is being assisted by the Bank of Israel, National Cyber Bureau, and Attorney General, among other relevant bodies.

Leumi Card CEO Hagai Heller said that “there is no fear of any type of damage our customers. Still, we are treating the incident with utmost seriousness, and when the investigation ends and we receive the full findings, we will learn the necessary lessons and operate accordingly.”

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