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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

German Police Arrest Hackers

German police have arrested 10 people, including Russian and Ukrainian citizens, on suspicions of defrauding victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in an Internet scam, the country's Federal Police Office said in a statement Thursday.

The group, which police say had links with an international organized crime organization, was tracked down after an 18-month hunt across several German cities, including D?sseldorf, Cologne and Frankfurt.

The suspects, who also include German citizens, were believed to be involved in a crime commonly known as phishing, which involves tricking Internet users into revealing personal or financial details.

Police are holding eight of the 10 arrested, including two women and six men aged 20 to 36.

The group targeted bank customers with e-mails purportedly from organizations such as eBay and Deutsche Telekom, the police said in the statement. Some of the e-mails were even made to appear as though they had been sent by the Federal Police Office. The group also operated bogus web sites that lured victims by mimicking the appearance of authentic corporate sites, the statement said.

The gang gained access to some of the acquired funds by recruiting medium-sized financial agencies, which then forwarded the money onward to Russia and Ukraine, the statement said. The police said the gang also had accessed cash via bank accounts created with false aliases.

"Phishing remains the most classic form of cybercrime and the easiest to execute," said Ramil Yafizov, a computer specialist at software company Symantec's Moscow office. "E-mails containing Trojan horse virus were sent en masse to victims' computers."

Trojan horse software records data entered in computers, which can later be used to enter online bank accounts.

Personal users are more commonly targeted because their computers are often less secure than those in corporate networks, making them an easier target, Yafizov said.

"This case shows that criminal organizations are using the Internet more and more to gain enormous amounts of money with a supposedly low risk of being caught," the Federal Police Office president, J?rg Ziercke, said in the statement. "The authorities constantly face new challenges in the fight against computer crime, where perpetrators are developing a higher degree of professionalism and specialization."

Most of the fraudulent transactions were intercepted, police said, but the gang still managed to access enough money to finance luxurious lifestyles involving cars, travel and expensive jewelry.

The German Federal Police Office would not give the exact number of Russian and Ukrainian citizens involved in the investigation.