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Gardaí conducting searches as part of Operation Stargrew. Garda Press Office
operation stargrew

Two arrested by gardaí as part of global operation that shut down phishing platform

Operation Stargrew saw police from 19 countries take down one of the world’s largest phishing-as-a-service platform, known as LabHost.

GARDAÍ HAVE ARRESTED two men and seized cash, cryptocurrency and electronic devices as part of an international policing operation which saw one of the world’s largest phishing platforms shut down. 

Operation Stargrew, co-ordinated by Europol, targets individuals suspected to be involved in organised fraud, where bulk “phishing” or “smishing” text messages, which are designed to trick people into providing their personal information for the purposes of fraud are sent out.

They often claim to be from banks, post offices or delivery companies.

As part of Operation Stargrew, gardaí conducted 12 searches at locations across Dublin, Kildare and Waterford on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The searches were led by officers from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB), with assistance from other units, including the Armed Support Unit, Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau, Garda National Immigration Bureau and Garda Dog Unit.

During the course of the searches, €42,000 in cash, €10,000 in cryptocurrency, 82 smartphones, 25 computers, nine tablet devices, and a Rolex watch were seized.

photos from searches 17 April 2024 (7) Some of the cash seized during the searches. Garda Press Office Garda Press Office

Two men were arrested during the course of the operation.

One of the arrested men has been charged, and will appear before the courts at a later date.

The Irish operation, co-ordinated by the GNECB, was carried out jointly with Europol, and other Law Enforcement Agencies from participating EU and Non-EU countries.

LabHost shut down

The global policing operation also saw law enforcement from 19 countries disrupt one of the world’s largest phishing-as-a-service platform, known as LabHost.

According to Europol, cybercriminals who paid a monthly subscription to LabHost were provided with phishing kits, infrastructure for hosting pages, interactive functionality for directly engaging with victims, and campaign overview services.

The investigation uncovered at least 40,000 phishing domains linked to LabHost, which had some 10,000 users worldwide.

The platform has now been shut down.

It is suspected that there were around 116 users of LabHost with a connection to Ireland. Gardaí have identified over 150,000 instances of a person responding to a phishing link suspected to be associated with the 116 users.

These LabHost users were primarily targeting an estimated 135,000 Irish residents, but have also targeted people in other countries, including Australia, Finland, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Austria, Norway and Estonia. 

Europol said a “vast amount of data” gathered throughout the investigation is now in the possession of law enforcement.

“This data will be used to support ongoing international operational activities focused on targeting the malicious users of this phishing platform,” it said.