Several members of an international phishing gang have been arrested by German police following a four-month investigation into the criminal syndicate.

Seven men, aged between 21 and 47 years old, were arrested in connection with a plot to steal from the bank accounts of thousands of internet users.

The BKA (Germany's federal crime office) said it stopped the German/Lithuanian gang as its members were just about to send out millions of phishing emails with trojans designed to steal passwords and TANs (single-use transaction numbers) from online bank account holders.

Police officers, who have been investigating the case since last December, searched six apartments in Frankfurt, Wetzlar, Gießen, Stauffenberg, Lich and Allendorf for evidence. According to the BKA, the gang opened several bank accounts using fake names and addresses and planned to transfer stolen money to Eastern Europe.

"The German police should be applauded for arresting these men before the alleged criminal plot was put into action," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The potential rewards for internet crime are high, and we are seeing organised international gangs becoming more sophisticated in the ways in which they attempt to steal information from online banking users. Computer crime authorities around the world need to work closely with each other to break these criminal gangs apart and bring them to justice."