Cops Shut Down Hacker Drug Ring
Robot balloon cranes might slash costs for major shipping ports -- or make give them new competition.
CREDIT: Port of L.A.
A Dutch drug ring employed a group of Belgian hackers to reroute two tons (1,814 kilograms) of cocaine and heroin into their waiting arms — but the police nabbed them just before they could carry out their devious plan.
This may sound like the elaborate setup for a crime drama, but it actually happened, according to Dutch paper De Telegraaf. The nameless cabal of Dutch drug dealers hired at least two (and, more likely, four) hackers in Belgium to subtly manipulate shipping companies' computers and direct containers full of drugs into port.
The hackers were able to gain remote access to the computers for two different shipping companies, and then rerouted containers into Antwerp, Belgium, for a convenient pickup. Instead of the regular transportation company, the drug runners showed up, ready to haul away their prize: one ton of cocaine, one ton of heroin and more than $1.7 million.
Even though they fell victim to hacking, the shipping companies noticed that something was amiss in their records and contacted the police. When the drug runners showed up to claim their prize, they found the police waiting for them.
At least two of the hackers are still at large, although Dutch and Belgian authorities succeeded in arresting seven Dutch smugglers and two Belgian hackers. The police have issued international warrants for the arrest of the remaining two hackers. The authorities have also seized guns and body armor from the arrested members of the drug ring. [See also: The 10 Biggest Online Security Myths And How to Avoid Them]
Although the police did not reveal exactly how the hackers infiltrated the shipping companies' websites, it's not too difficult to hack into an underprotected system. A simple virus — which can infect computers over something as simple as not updating a Web browser or having an easy-to-guess password for administrative functions — can grant hackers control over a computer.
Whatever the case, this is not the first time Dutch and Belgian drug runners have attempted similar stunts. In April, 251 lbs. (114 kg) of cocaine arrived in a shipment of wood in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and in May, another 551 lbs. (250 kg) of cocaine was hidden in a banana shipment bound for Holland.
The police believe that both incidents were part of the same hacker-smuggler ring.
Though hackers have access to some sophisticated tricks, the authorities will likely still shut them down. In the meantime, some screenwriter for a crime procedural show just got a free idea for his next episode.