Antwerp, known as a city of elegant or at least well-planned jewelry heists, has seen a new form of movie-plot criminality: drug cartels playing Tetris by hacking into container-port computers, redirecting containers that were clandestinely packed with drugs onto trucks run by the gang.
The smuggling operation targeted shipping companies and port authority workers with spear phishgin and malware. In some cases, they actually broke into company offices to bug the computers.
For the drug runners, this arrangement carried a critical advantage: anonymity. If the drugs were found in the container en route, there was no way to link them to the container’s legitimate recipient.
For a random company dealing with hundreds or thousands of containers a year, one mysteriously going missing was presumably seen under the heading “normal losses.”
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“According to the Netherlands public prosecutor (statement here in Dutch), a Netherlands-based drug ring hired hackers to manipulate systems in the major port of Antwerp in their neighbouring country, Belgium, in order to arrange pick-ups.
The hackers obtained access at two container terminals by using spear phishing and malware attacks directed at port authority workers and shipping companies, before changing the location and the delivery times of containers that had the drugs in them, according to the public prosecutor.
Subsequently, the smugglers sent their own drivers to pick up drug-loaded shipping containers before the legitimate haulier could collect them.
The whole scheme, eerily similar to the set-up of the plot of season 2 of The Wire, was uncovered by police after shipping firms detected something was amiss. Police set up a bust that resulted in the seizure of about one tonne of heroin and the same amount of cocaine, Expatica.com reports.”