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Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard’s podcast and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.
The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency recently arrested at least one member of the hacking group The Chuckling Squad, which has targeted celebrities and other high profile social media users with SIM swapping attacks. The NCA said it had arrested eight men in the UK for related offenses, but the specific identification of the group has not been previously reported.
“They accused me of hacking the met [Metropolitan] Police; Chantel Jeffries; Adam Sandler; and accused me of stealing over $1m in crypto. I’m fine though,” one of the arrested members, who goes by the handle Aqua, told Motherboard in an online chat last week.
Motherboard reached Aqua on an online chat account they’ve previously used. Aqua provided a copy of an arrest document for his case, dated February 9. Aqua declined to provide their real name.
“NCA broke my door down; they did the same with others too,” Aqua said.
Do you have any more documents related to these arrests? We’d love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on email@example.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Cause a computer to perform functions to secure/enable unauthorised access,” part of the document under “Alleged Offence(s)” reads, referring to the UK’s hacking law the Computer Misuse Act. The document names a police station in London; the previously announced arrests included two 18 year old men from London for Computer Misuse Act offences.
Aqua said the authorities “had nothing on all of us.”
“Nothing we put to the table in the interview room. Just allegations. No evidence,” he added.
“This was not a surprise,” Aqua said. “I expected all of this to happen, to be honest I expected evidence. Not to be asked questions without anything to prove lol.” (Law enforcement agencies do not necessarily provide all evidence they have against a defendant at the initial point of arrest).
Before the NCA’s announcement of the arrests, Motherboard presented the agency with a list of usernames multiple people in the SIM swapping community said had been arrested, including members of the Chuckling Squad. The NCA declined to comment on the usernames specifically, and instead provided the agency’s public media release.
In that release, Paul Creffield, head of operations in the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said “This network targeted a large number of victims in the US and regularly attacked those they believed would be lucrative targets, such as famous sports stars and musicians. In this case, those arrested face prosecution for offences under the Computer Misuse Act, as well as fraud and money laundering as well as extradition to the USA for prosecution.”
The NCA added it worked with the US Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI and the Santa Clara California District Attorney’s Office. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office manages the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), which has focused especially on prosecuting SIM swappers.
The Chuckling Squad was also tied to the hijacking of Twitter CEO’s Jack Dorsey’s Twitter account in 2019. Authorities arrested an alleged member of the group later that year.
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