In 2020, US and Canadian authorities were seized after a major cryptocurrency theft. In all, the equivalent of 46 million Canadian dollars (32.22 million euros) was stolen by a hacker – a record for a sum stolen from a single individual. The investigation quickly revealed the cybercriminal’s modus operandi. The latter actually used the SIM Swap technique.
Concretely, it is enough for the hacker to collect as much personal data as possible on his target. Once he knows enough to answer all the common questions that call center agents ask to confirm the identity of their interlocutor, he can then contact the operator of his victim to obtain a duplicate of his SIM card.
The hacker was found, but not most of the funds that were stolen
Most mobile operators indeed offer those who wish to obtain a second SIM card on the same package. This can be useful, for example, to switch between two smartphones, or to take advantage of your data on another device. The problem is that these SIM cards are clones and operate with the same phone number. Suddenly, with the second SIM card, the hacker can receive all the SMS from his victim.
Many platforms and services offer to strengthen the security of your accounts by enabling two-factor authentication – a one-time code that must be entered in addition to your password to confirm your identity. This code can either be generated on your smartphone or device, or received by SMS. The victim in question had obviously activated double authentication with OTP code received by SMS for the crypto account he held online.
After obtaining the password and one-time login codes, the hacker had no trouble logging in and transferring the funds to wallets under his control. From there, it is difficult to trace the transfers of cryptocurrencies. But FBI and Hamilton Police investigators quickly detected purchases made with some of the stolen funds.
Investigators were thus able to trace back to the holder of an account on a gaming platform. What made it possible to find the pirate. It turns out he’s just a teenager. He was arrested on November 17 for theft and concealment and will be brought to justice. According to the joint FBI and Hamilton police statement, authorities have yet to trace most of the funds. The authorities simply announced that they had made several seizures totaling 7 million Canadian dollars.