These individuals stand accused of cyber-crimes including data theft, fraud and malware writing, while other compromised cyber-crime groups were allegedly involved in phishing scams and DDoS attacks.
A 21-year-old man was arrested for his alleged involvement with the D33Ds Company hacking collective, which is believed to be behind the 2012 hack on Yahoo, which saw the loss and publication of 400,000 emails online. Another man, 23 years old from Sutton Coldfield, is said to be involved with the US Department of Defence (DoD) network compromise back in June 2014, while police also captured a suspected member of the Lizard Squad.
The youngest arrest was of a 16-year-old from Leeds who allegedly launched DDoS attacks against 350 websites, while police also captured someone who is believed to have made £15,000 from phishing.
The whole action was co-ordinated by National Crime Agency's National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) but also included the Met Police and specialist officers from Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) – across England, Scotland and Wales.
The Met Police's newly-formed Fraud and Linked Crime Online (FALCON) unit arrested 25 suspects in the London and Essex area in connection with using the internet to steal money, launder cash and carry out other frauds.
The BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones saw some of the arrests take place and later wrote online: “The arrest had some of the drama of a classic police operation - "Go! Go! Go!" came the command over the walkie-talkie as we approached the suspect's flat. But no doors were kicked in, and there were no shouts of "You're nicked!" The priority was to make sure any computers were seized before they could be shut down or their data encrypted.”
He added: “Teams arrived with equipment to gather data, and found a laptop and a desktop computer, both of them online. One officer was employed simply keeping her finger on the laptop's trackpad to make sure it didn't go to sleep. Later, police cyber-specialists would spend many hours examining exactly what was on the two computers.”
NCA's “strike week” also involved four forces setting up pop-up shops to give advice to the public about staying safe online and to get their devices checked to make sure they are free of malware. Ten ROCUs, meanwhile, visited 60 businesses, delivering personalised security reports identifying 5,631 compromises on servers in the UK.
“The 56 arrests around the country this week are a result of the essential partnership activity with law enforcement, industry and government that is at the heart of fighting cyber-crime,” said Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCCU.
“Criminals need to realise that committing crime online will not render them anonymous to law enforcement. It's imperative that we continue to work with partners to pursue and disrupt the major crime groups targeting the UK."
Charlie McMurdie, senior crime adviser at PwC and ex-head of the Met Police Central e-Crime Unit, told SCMagazineUK.com: “It's great to show what can be done with a coordinated activity amongst law enforcement across the country. It's a significant number [of arrests] and hopefully it's improving learning and getting the message out there. But there are still plenty more people out there with cyber-crime capabilities.”