Coordinated International Law Enforcement Action Taken Against Cyber Criminal Network “Avalanche”

Cyber crime is a major issue in the real estate industry today.  In particular, the use of “phishing” to misdirect funds in real estate transactions and the subsequent movement of those funds out of the United States through money mules has resulted in millions of dollars in losses.  More often than not the criminals are not prosecuted and the funds are not recovered.

Many factors are to blame for the low prosecution in this area.  This is because catching cyber criminals is no small task.  Indeed, efforts to stop these cyber criminals take years of investigating, engineering and coordination.  This is evident by the recent international law enforcement action taken against the cyber crime network known as Avalanche.  On November 30, authorities in several European countries coordinated the arrest of five individuals thought to be actively involved in running the Avalanche network.  According to reports, the investigation into the crime network took 4 years and involved efforts of prosecutors and investigators from 30 countries.

According to the press release put out on the matter by Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, “the Avalanche network was used as a delivery platform to launch and manage mass global malware attacks and money mule recruiting campaigns…. [C]riminal groups have been using the Avalanche infrastructure since 2009 for conducting malware, phishing and spam activities. They sent more than 1 million e-mails with damaging attachments or links every week to unsuspecting victims.”  According to the US Department of Justice, monetary losses as a result of Avalanche’s malware attacks are likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide.

The day after the arrests, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-Cert) put out an alert which provides information and resources for people wanting to know more about Avalanche.  The alert describes the scope and breadth of malware used by Avalanche and provides links to free scanning programs so companies and individuals can check to see if their computers are infected.  The US-Cert alert can be accessed at

This enforcement development is thus a welcome action for victims of cyber criminals.  It is not, however, a solution to the cyber theft threat.  This network may be down but cyber crime is not gone.  As such, real estate professionals need to continue to act diligently to protect their computers and their electronic communications in order to minimize their risk of falling victim to cyber theft.


Jennifer Felten

Jennifer Felten, Esq., Relaw Ms. Felten specializes in representing both individuals and legal entities, providing representation and guidance on a variety of real estate related matters.  Relaw APC 699 Hampshire Road, Suite 105 Westlake Village, CA  91361 US Phone: (805) 265-1031 or email her at:

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