Operation Vivarium

National operation to crack down on cyber criminals

Operation Vivarium closes in on Lizard Group hack tool users

The final sting in the tail of a national operation to crack down on cyber criminals has resulted in wayward web-surfers being warned about their actions.
The last in a series of Operation Vivarium initiatives, co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA), took place in the eastern region this week? after intelligence revealed a number of skilled computer users had accessed site-hacking software.
Officers from the Eastern Region Specialist Operations Unit (ERSOU), in partnership with Hertfordshire Constabulary and Essex Police, traced the use of the software to addresses within the two areas.
The Lizard Stressor tool – developed by notorious hackers the Lizard Group – allows users to pay to take websites offline for up to eight hours at a time, by carrying out Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
The attack causes web servers or sites to be flooded with massive amounts of data, leaving them inaccessible to users.
In one of four visits carried out by the local Vivarium teams, it was discovered one of the subjects had been subject to identity theft by cyber criminals, after curiosity took him into areas of the internet known as the ‘dark web’.
He and his parents were given advice on how to protect his identity online.
The remaining subjects all accepted that they had visited the Lizard Stressor site but denied using it for illegal purposes.
They were all warned about the dangers of illegal online activity such as mounting DDoS attacks on others, and were provided with crime prevention advice.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Balmer from ERSOU’s economic and cyber crime unit said: “The most worrying thing about this whole operation has been the fact that several of the subjects did not know that using DDOS attacks is illegal, even if only done in the context of online gaming.
“If you are caught, you could end up with a criminal record – and this joint initiative between the NCA, ERSOU and local police forces shows how easily your activity can be traced.
“ERSOU, along with the NCA and local forces, would always prefer to intervene with both potential victims and would-be offenders before matters get out of hand.
“By acting as we did, we not only prevented crime from taking place, but also protected those carrying out this risky activity from the unforeseen consequences of their actions.”
The activity follows a series of arrests throughout the country in connection with suspected malicious use of the Lizard Stressor tool, and further addresses visited nationally to issue warnings and share advice.
A third of the individuals identified by Operation Vivarium are under the age of 20, and the project forms part of the NCA’s wider work to address younger people at risk of entering into serious forms of cyber crime.
The government’s Cyber Essentials Scheme provides guidance on how to guard against and mitigate threats from cyber crime. Further advice on staying safe online can be found on Cyberstreetwise.com and Getsafeonline.org.