Four people have been arrested in the UK as part of an international operation targeting criminals developing tools to fool anti-virus software.
According to police, at the heart of the investigation is “a platform used by malware developers… to test samples for their ability to evade popular off the shelf anti-virus software”.
Data shared with international partners allowed the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to identify individuals who had uploaded and tested malware on this platform.
A number of such platforms exist, many of them legitimately. Sites such as Virus Total are online engines which allow people to check whether suspicious files and links are potentially harmful.
The NCA did not say which platform the arrested individuals had used, but a spokesman said it involved “uploading malware to be tested against paid-for services”.
Details have only just emerged about the four arrests, which were carried out between 5 and 9 June at addresses in Wales, Yorkshire and Humber, and in the southeast and east of the UK.
Senior investigating officer David Cox said: “I think a lot of people who put anti-virus protection on their computers would be astonished that there is a whole industry dedicated to trying to get around that protection.
“The response to this kind of threat is a global one, and the NCA is part of an international network which attacks not only the cyber criminals themselves but the services they provide for each other.”
The four individuals, who have not been named, were arrested on suspicion of offences under the Computer Misuse Act. They have not yet been charged and have now been released pending an investigation.