New South Wales Police have confirmed that the two boys and two girls, aged between 16 and 17, were allegedly used as "mules" by organised criminals. According to a police spokesperson, money stolen from online bank accounts was transferred to the mules' personal account. This money was then withdrawn by the mules and the majority of it was handed over to the crime gang.
Nine more suspects have been arrested including two men, aged 19 and 21, who are allegedly thought to be ringleaders of the international crime gang's Australian operation. Police are expecting to make another 15 arrests over the coming weeks.
According to the NSW Police, the gang used adverts and spam to distribute malware that, once loaded on a computer, could monitor the user's keystrokes and send any banking usernames and passwords back to the gang's ringleaders.
A police spokesperson told ZDNet Australia that malware technology is developing at an incredible rate so both users and Internet security companies are having trouble keeping up with the criminals.
"It doesn't matter how secure your computer is. The problem with Trojans is that the technology develops so quickly," the spokesperson said.
Rob Forsyth, managing director of Sophos in Australia and New Zealand, agreed that users could never be absolutely sure that their computer is Trojan-free. However, he said that by minimising the risks it is possible to be relatively safe.
"Nothing is 100 percent safe. Can you ensure you are 100 percent safe crossing the road? No. but you can take a lot of precautions such as crossing at the lights and looking both ways," said Forsyth.
Forsyth said he hopes the high profile arrests will highlight the risks of being involved in such activities and help deter other teenagers from letting strangers use their bank accounts.
"It is very good people are being arrested for it. High profile arrests might act as a deterrent," said Forsyth.
Forsyth said that people have to realise that allowing someone to use your bank account is as risky as carrying a parcel through customs for a stranger.
"If you were standing in customs with drugs and you gave them to a group of gullible youths it wouldn't be a bad investment. In this case the gang has got gullible youths entrapped to do banking on their behalf -- so if anything goes wrong, only the underlings are caught. The two things would seem quite similar," said Forsyth.