A gang of hackers, OPERA1ER, stole at least $11m from companies in Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, 11 other African countries, and Argentina.
This is according to a new report from Group-IB, a cybersecurity firm, entitled, “OPERA1ER: Playing God without permission,” in collaboration with the researchers from Orange CERT Coordination Center.
The firm disclosed that digital forensic artifacts analysed by it and Orange followed more than 30 successful intrusions of the gang between 2018 and 2022.
The company’s data revealed that companies in Ivory Coast were the most targeted.
It said this helped it to trace affected organisations in Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, Paraguay, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Togo, and Argentina.
It added that while it estimated that the gang stole $11m, it could have actually stolen as high as $30m.
It stated, “The report takes a deep dive into financially motivated attacks of the prolific French-speaking threat actor, codenamed OPERA1ER.
“Despite relying solely on known ‘off-the-shelf’ tools, the gang managed to carry out more than 30 successful attacks against banks, financial services, and telecommunication companies mainly located in Africa between 2018 and 2022. OPERA1ER is confirmed to have stolen at least $11m, according to Group-IB’s estimates.
“One of OPERA1ER’s attacks involved a vast network of 400 mule accounts for fraudulent money withdrawals. Researchers from the Group-IB European Threat Intelligence Unit identified and reached out to 16 affected organizations so they could mitigate the threat and prevent further attacks by OPERA1ER.”
According to the firm, the report was completed in 2021 when the threat actor was active. Head of cyber threat research at Group-IB Europe, Rustam Mirkasymov, said, “Detailed analysis of the gang’s recent attacks revealed an interesting pattern in their modus operandi: OPERA1ER conducts attacks mainly during the weekends or public holidays.
“It correlates with the fact that they spend from 3 to 12 months from the initial access to money theft. It was established that the French-speaking hacker group could operate from Africa. The exact number of the gang members is unknown.”
Police rescue two children abandoned by mothers in Lagos
The Lagos State Police Command says operatives of the Rapid Response Squad unit in the state have rescued two children abandoned by their mothers in the Marina area of the state.
This is contained in a statement posted on its official Twitter handle on Friday.
The children were identified as five-year-old Chidara and three-year-old Shonton Chukwu.
The RRS said that the children were rescued on Thursday at about 6:00 p.m.
“Our patrol team at Marina saw two underage boys on the expressway about to be run over by speeding vehicles.
“The boys disclosed that their mother boarded a car and left them,” the command wrote.
The RRS said that the children had been taken to the Adeniji-Adele Police Division to be reunited with their parents.
How Diezani shared $115m to politicians to compromise 2015 polls – EFCC
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said that its investigation shows that Diezani Alison-Madueke, a former minister of petroleum resources, allegedly gave politicians $115 million to compromise the 2015 elections.
Abdulrasheed Bawa, the EFCC chairperson, said this at an induction retreat for new resident electoral commissioners (INEC) in Lagos.
Bawa was represented by Adukwu Michael, the chief superintendent of the anti-graft agency.
Diezani was the minister of petroleum resources from 2010 to 2015 during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan
Shortly before Jonathan handed over to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, she left the country.
The former minister is alleged to have stolen $2.5 billion from the Nigerian government while she was a minister.
She has, however, denied the allegations, while the EFCC has since commenced a process to extradite her.
The Federal Government had gained forfeiture of Diezani’s properties located in Banana Island Foreshore Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, including 18 flats and six penthouses.
‘OUR FOCUS IS TO DISCOURAGE USE OF MONEY TO INFLUENCE ELECTION’
The EFCC chairperson’s representative said some of the monies allegedly stolen by Diezani have been recovered by the agency.
He disclosed that the anti-graft agency is focusing on how to discourage vote buying.
“The commission’s focus in election management is discouraging the use of money to influence the outcome of election,” THISDAY quoted him as saying.
“Electoral spending by politicians often leads to voter inducement and vote buying.
“Parties often induce voter with money because they lack proper and realistic policies to convince the electorate to vote them into power.
“Whenever one is induced to sell his vote, he automatically loses moral ground to challenge corrupt tendencies of those elected.
“In the 2015 discreet investigation, the commission was able to uncover a grand plan to compromise the 2015 general election through massive cash payments to politicians.
“$115 million was paid out to politicians by former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madukwe, to compromise the election.
“Some of the money was recovered while many of the culprits are being prosecuted with few convictions recorded. At the heart of EFCC strategy to curb voter inducement is inter-agency collaboration and information sharing.
Gunmen attack mosque in Delta, many injured
Some unknown gunmen, early Friday morning attacked a mosque in Ughelli, Delta state, leaving 11 worshippers injured.
According to some residents, the attack took place at about 6.47 am when some Muslim faithful were holding their morning prayers at the Central Mosque, located along Okoroda street in Ughelli.
The resident who gave his name simply as Larry, said many residents were jolted from their sleep by gunshots followed by loud cries from people inside the mosque.
“My name is Larry, I am a commercial vehicle driver here in Ughelli. I live very close to the central mosque, so this morning at about 6.45 am we heard a shooting at the mosque.
“Because of fear, many people in my compound were frightened and we remained inside only peeping through our windows.
“As the shooting lasted, we heard loud cries from some worshippers inside the mosque,” Larry said.
According to him, after the invaders left, many residents thronged to the mosque in their numbers to see what happened.
He said residents helped to evacuate injured worshippers, adding that those that survived the attack suffered severe injuries.
Larry said that some of the worshippers told residents that three of their fellow worshippers were taken away by the gunmen.
Delta police spokesperson, DSP Bright Edafe, confirmed the attack but said that only 11 worshippers were injured in the attack.
He, however, did not confirm the abduction of three worshippers.
“I just called the DPO at Ughelli and he confirmed to me that 11 persons were injured in the attack at the mosque.
“However, the police have commenced an investigation into the incident and we will update you as we work to unravel the culprits.
“For now, no arrest has been made but I can assure you that we will get those involved,” Edafe said.
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